29 March 2007

Home PS3

As online virtual worlds (i.e. Second Life, There.com, etc) continue to gain in popularity, a few weeks ago Sony unveiled its own version of an immersive 3D social space, known as Home. The service is created exclusively for the PlayStation 3 and appears to be aimed at giving consumers a new reason to choose the PS3. Home is a 3D, avatar-based social environment available for free to users of the PlayStation 3 network. The idea is to give users a way to connect in a multimedia space and interact with the various forms of media available on the PS3. Home will be a free download. It will go into a large-scale beta in April and will launch publicly this fall.

While Home has some innovative features--most notably the ability to watch high-definition quality video available through the PS3 network--it's strongly reminiscent of virtual worlds like Second Life, only deeply scaled back. Home participants will be able to meet other members, most likely in a main public area known as the "Central Lobby," and communicate through text, audio or video chatting. They will also be able to pipe in--either in public or private theaters--the latest movies or TV shows available through the PS3 network, as well as their own user-created videos. Further, users will be able to infinitely customize their avatars. And each member will be given a small (and free) private space, somewhat like an apartment, that he or she can customize per his or her own tastes.

A main selling point of Second Life is that users create nearly all the content, with almost no limits, making for an environment that's almost infinitely extensible. By contrast, Home appears to be a much more controlled space. But maintaining such control over content creation means devoting large amounts of time and manpower to the vetting process, and that can translate to a significant delay in the approval of content, as well as minimized user creativity. Still, Sony may not want Home users to have that much control over what they create.

More information:



12 March 2007

Real-time 3D engine in web pages

DX Studio is a complete integrated development environment for creating interactive 3D graphics. The system comprises of both a real-time 3D engine and a suite of editing tools, and is the first product to offer a complete range of tools in a single IDE.

The system includes both 2D & 3D layout editors, and allows full JavaScript control of everything from changing the background to editing meshes in real-time. You can also command and control your documents from outside of the player using the powerful ActiveX/COM interface.

Using DX Studio you can build complete real-time interactive applications, simulations or games, for standalone use or for embedding in other Microsoft Office/Visual Studio applications.

The engine behind DX Studio uses DirectX 9.0c to make the most of 3D graphics hardware acceleration, and includes support for the latest pixel and vertex shader effects found on the more powerful 3D graphics cards.

The playback engine in both EXE and ActiveX DLL forms can be redistributed without any further royalties.

More information:


10 March 2007


OneGeology is a project that aims to create dynamic digital geological map data for the whole world. The target scale is 1:1 million but the project will be pragmatic and accept a range of scales and the best available data. The geological map data will be made available as a distributed web service, using the latest web feature mapping approach. Geological Surveys will dynamically 'serve' the data for their territories to a web portal. The plan is to make it available through Google Earth and other dynamic map browsers. The initiative is truly multi-lateral and multi-national and will be carried out under the umbrella of many organisations working together: the network of Geological Surveys around the world, the international umbrella organisations of the Commission for the Geological Map of the World, IUGS, IYPE and UNESCO, and last but not least the international framework of the International Steering Committee for Global Mapping. It is hoped to attract other relevant bodies as the project moves forward.

The concept is a completely modern paradigm: it is planned as a distributed model - a dynamic set of geological map data served mostly on a national basis by individual Geological Surveys and other bodies (e.g. the polar and marine surveys and research bodies) to a web portal and as such will be frequently updated and improved by them and reflect the most up to date data they possess. To achieve its goals the project team will combine state of the art skills in geoscience data modelling and information management with worldwide expertise and experience in lithological and stratigraphical classification. OneGeology will be closely interlinked with the IUGS Commission on geoscience information (CGI) and in particular its work on a global data model and interchange standard - GeoSciML. The project will kick off formally in early 2007. During 2007 the first test datasets are anticipated to become available. Data will be progressively added through 2008 and the first results will be presented at the International Geological Congress in Oslo in 2008. Data will continue to be added and upgraded through time to provide the most complete and dynamic coverage of the Planet at the target scale of 1:1 million.

More information:



07 March 2007

LON-LIS Seminar

Yesterday, I have presented the latest results in the area of Virtual Mobile Navigation in London Library & Information Science Research Seminars (LON-LIS) with title ‘Pedestrian Navigation using Mobile Virtual Reality’. The seminar took place at the department of Information Science at City University. The presentation involved an overview of three experimental VR systems I have partially or completely developed since 2005. Initial evaluation of all systems has been performed but a complete study is underway. An overview of the research prototypes presented include the following:
  • a mobile map interface
  • a mobile VR interface
  • a multimodal map/VR interface
The mobile map interface is based on Macromedia Flash technologies and the main functionality includes: map visualisation; map navigation; and finding local information. Initial evaluation with five users showed that raster and vector maps were favoured in terms of visualisation. As far as navigation is concerned, feedback about rotation operations was diverse but about zoom operation was encouraging. Moreover, users found the finding local information very useful but more functionality would be good.

The mobile VR interface (also known as Virtual Navigator) is based on open-standard VRML technologies and the most characteristic features include a user-friendly navigational interface and functionality to support realistic rendering and intuitive interaction. Initial evaluation with ten users illustrated that the use of textures is preferred when navigating and wayfinding into virtual environments. Also the use of street geometry (i.e. trees, benches, fences, street lights) enhances the whole navigational experience. Furthermore, users reported that the use of low-resolution scenes is preferred compared to high-resolution scenes because of efficiency issues.

The multimodal map/VR interface is the main technology developed in the LOCUS project and an overview of the method of operation is shown below:

LOCUS software infrastructure is based on the Camineo platform which is spin-off company formed after the completion of a European funded project called WebPark. In LOCUS, we use the Camineo platform to receive positional information, take advantage of the client-server functionality and use ‘mobile search' options. Both map and VR interfaces can be controlled by tracking devices including a location-sensor such as GPS and an orientation sensor such as digital compass. Mobile map navigation can present information relevant to a user’s query over a 2D map whereas VR navigation over a 3D map respectively. Information in both cases may include: the current position of the user; navigation information such as a route to be followed; and the locations of features of interest that were retrieved as the result of a user query. Evaluation of this prototype is under way.

The abstract of the presentation can be accessed from here.