Archive for Social Networks

3D Cities to Virtual Worlds

Berlin Molkenmarkt

Recently, The members of the Open Geospatial Consortium, Inc. (OGC) adopted version 1.0.0 of the OpenGIS® CityGML Encoding Standard as an official OGC Standard. According to OIGC, CityGML is an open data model framework and XML-based encoding standard for the storage and exchange of virtual 3D urban models. Also, CityGML is an application schema of the OpenGIS Geography Markup Language 3 (GML3) Encoding Standard, an international standard for spatial data exchange and encoding approved by the OGC and ISO.

According to the CityGMLWiki, “targeted application areas explicitly include urban and landscape planning; architectural design; tourist and leisure activities; 3D cadastres; environmental simulations; mobile telecommunications; disaster management; homeland security; vehicle and pedestrian navigation; training simulators; and mobile robotics.”

CityGML derived from efforts in Germany to integrate and link building information to the surrounding land. Traditionally, this integration has been weak, resulting in many challenges to the building industry as well as planners. And it’s not only technology where there are gaps, the entire building and GIS industries have been at arms length for decades. The hope is that CityGML can provide the standards necessary to bridge those gaps so that models can more accurately reflect the real-world juxtaposition and interrelationships between buildings and land.

In my opinion, all of this leads to virtual worlds. Now, virtual worlds are primarily the domain of gamers and socializers. But virtual worlds are no passing fad. According to a recent Technology Intelligence Group report Virtual World Industry Outlook 2008-2009, “Over one billion dollars were spent by the venture community on startups directly within or supporting virtual worlds between August 2007 and August 2008, and according to virtual world vendors and developers …”

Exciting to me is that with the inevitable merger of real-world models with virtual world technologies, sometimes called the Metaverse, geography and geographic information will be critical. According to the Metaverse Roadmap Overview, the Metaverse is the convergence of 1) virtually-enhanced physical reality and 2) physically persistent virtual space. It is a fusion of both, while allowing users to experience it as either.

I’ve written about The Business Relevance of Virtual Worlds. Others have discussed 3D models in the context of the GeoWeb, which is happening now and will be the precursor to geographically accurate virtual worlds. All of the big players are in this – Autodesk, Bentley, ESRI, Google, and Microsoft, as are some smaller companies such as Galdos Systems and Onuma. The Metaverse requires standards for interoperability, and CityGML is an important standard for now and the future of geographic information online.

Nokia Ovi Must Be Good – 50 Cent Uses It

Reported by Beet.TV, Nokia is about to open up its Ovi site for content sharing. Beet.TV interviewed Kamar Shah, head of global head of industry and marketing for Nokia.


“The Nokia N95 is becoming part of the Internet social networking phenomenon, Kamar, says. He cites news gathering and the use of the device by 50 Cent and others.  Users can stream live video or e-mail pictures to friends.” 

As you might recall, Nokia acquired Navteq, the map data provider, and the $8.1 billion deal closed earlier this month. Ovi is for people to share photos, videos, music, and other files. And Nokia device users can sync with their PCs.

Kamar discusses the importance of social networking, but as an example uses finding a restaurant near where you are. Huh? A cursory look at the site reveals little integration of the maps with anything but the phones. For example there is no mention of sharing maps between a mobile phone and a PC. What about sharing maps with friends? Not apparent on the Ovi pages, but I found elsewhere that Nokia says you can share routes and favorite spots with friends. Geotagging photos? Nope. The walking directions look interesting, though. No sign of recently acquired Plazes. Plazes is a service that lets people update others on what they are doing and where.

So, one can download the world in 4GB, says Nokia. Under the Ovi brand Nokia is likely to do more in the future with maps and other location-based data. It’s up to buyers, thought, to learn what they can really do … and understand Da Repercussions.

How Well Do You Know Your World?

Traveler IQ
Of growing popularity on Facebook is, curiously enough, a game in which one guesses the location of places on a world map. Traveler IQ presents a small-scale map of the world and then prompts you to click where you think is the right location of the city or other place. There is a timer and one scores points based on speed and accuracy. Players advance to increasingly difficult levels and the game ends when they run out of time.

According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, TravelPod founder Luc Levesque created the game to draw people to his travel Web site TravelPod.
Adonomics, a site that tracks and values Facebook applications, shows that almost 1.7 million people have installed Traveler IQ as an application on their profiles and the game enjoys more than 33,000 daily active users. Adonomics has been tracking the site since June 28.

While it’s great to see the popularity of a geography-based game, Travelr IQ has some annoying quirks. Because of the map scale, pinpointing the exact location of a city is virtually impossible, even when you know exactly where it is on the map. While one gets points based on distance from your guess to the actual location, the scale of the map gets annoying after a few plays. (And it’s not just me that thinks this – there are many Facebook comments on this point as well.)

Also, the location questions recycle frequently, meaning players can learn the correct locations and better their scores (if they can remember the right answers). This skews the leader board to those who replay the game frequently. Scoring should account for the number of times a player has played the game.

Since the developer made Traveler IQ for marketing and it is so popular as is, I doubt he will make improvements. Quirks aside, it’s nice to see so many people, at least those using Facebook, find attraction in a location-themed game. There are other map games on the Internet – a decent sampling from shows a few including many similar to Traveler IQ, called “Find It” but for regions. Find It games also give you a chance to guess until you are right or skip a question. National Geographic offers GeoSpy amongst a slew of other games on its site. While these games are, in my view, “better” they are not on Facebook.

Even more popular on Facebook than Traveler IQ is Where I’ve Been which lets people post a map on their profiles showing places, well, where they’ve been. With almost five million Facebook installs, according to Adonomics, the application is also available for other social networking sites including MySpace and Bebo. While it’s not a game, per se, it is fun to see and compare where friends have been.

The popularity of Traveler IQ shows that games might be a decent, and perhaps underused, teaching tool for geography, worth more formal exploration by educators and geographers. It also shows that to reach an audience, you have to go where they hang out — online on social networking sites!