27 January 2007

Second Life in 3D

Second life is a 3D virtual environment which was entirely built and owned by its residents. Since opening to the public in 2003, it has grown massively and today is populated by a total of 2,954,687 people from around the world. Second Life is a 3D platform that can be used for: presenting, promoting, and selling content to a broad online audience; collaborating and communicating in real time between multiple participants; researching new concepts/products; and training and educating in virtual classrooms. An example screenshot from second life virtual world is shown below.

From the moment a user enters the virtual world, he/she must discover a large digital continent, teeming with people, entertainment, experiences and opportunity. As soon as the virtual world is explored then users must find a perfect parcel of land to build their house or business. It is also possible to be surrounded by the Creations of your fellow residents. Because residents retain the rights to their digital creations, they can buy, sell and trade with other residents. The Marketplace currently supports millions of US dollars in monthly transactions. This commerce is handled with the in-world currency, the Linden dollar, which can be converted to US dollars at several thriving online currency exchanges.

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24 January 2007

Mobile Map Interface

Pedestrian navigation and wayfinding for mobile devices is an area of continuous research with increased interest not only from the academic community but also from the rest of the world. In this blog, different approaches have been proposed in the past (i.e. Virtual Navigator, MD3DM VR Interface) but were mainly concerned with virtual reality technology. In parallel to these approaches, a mobile map interface has been developed. The interface is based on 2D visualisation technologies and can display different versions of 2D maps (raster, vector and aerial) and textual information. In addition, it can serve as a basic location-based system (LBS) by providing simple search capabilities (i.e. where is the nearest post office). The main functionality of the interface includes the following three categories: map visualisation, map navigation and finding local information as illustrated below.

The ‘map visualisation’ component provides a simple but effective way of visualising digital maps in mobile devices. To provide a multi-level visualisation framework similar to the ones existing in GIS software, four different types of maps can be displayed. Next, the ‘map navigation’ component allows users to interact with the 2D digital maps by either zooming, rotating or moving in eight directions inside the map using the controls embedded in the interface. Hotspots can be used to enlarge the map to cover the whole mobile display screen. Hotspots can be also used as hyperlinks, linking the map with web-pages that either contains relevant information about the location (i.e. City’s University website) or other types of digital maps such as Google maps. The ‘find local information’ component allows participants to search for geographical information such as street names and services (i.e. list of restaurants, bars, etc) and display information about them on the map.

09 January 2007

First 3D Map of the Universe

An international team of scientists have used Hubble telescope to reconstruct the first ever three-dimensional map at the web-like large-scale distribution of dark matter in the Universe in unprecedented detail. This is one of the most significant achievements in cosmology, which confirms standard theories of structure formation. The 3D map is comparable to visualising a city, its suburbs and surrounding country roads in daylight for the first time. Additionally, major arteries and intersections are exposed and the variety of different neighbourhoods becomes apparent.

The map was reconstructed based on the largest survey of the Universe made by the Hubble Space Telescope, the Cosmic Evolution Survey (COSMOS), carried out by an international team of 70 astronomers. To add 3D distance information, the Hubble observations were combined with spectra from ESO’s VLT (Very Large Telescope) and multicolour images from the Japanese Subaru and Canada-France-Hawaii telescopes. The 3D map, obtained thanks to HST and XMM-Newton data, reveals a loose network of dark matter filaments, gradually collapsing under the relentless pull of gravity, and growing clumpier over time. The three axes of the box correspond to sky position and distance from the Earth increasing from left to right.

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