Google Glass and Time Travel


A lot has been written about how Google Glass will be great for those that put on a pair. Immediate access to the world’s most powerful database, push alerts from your closest friends, a voice UI so you can look up directions without having to look down at your phone, a  camera that lets you take a photo and share a moment, all without leaving that moment.

While these are all powerful use cases that are bound to transform how we interact with the world around us, I’m more excited for the capability of Google Glass to annotate the physical world as we travel through it for those that come after us, especially those that can re-experience that world, as we saw it, in context. Imagine being able to take a photo of Notre Dame in Paris today, on a trip with your family and saving those photos with all the GPS data so the photo has a place, on a map, in time. Add a community and you have a series of photos of a place, all taken from different perspectives. This, of course, is flickr’s world map – announced in 2004 under the tagline, “eyes of the world.”



While a picture is worth 1,000 words, what if you could add more context. What if you could add more text to your photo? Tell a story that shared how this photo, in this place, was important to you? This is, a place where people leave notes for each other in space and time. As described in their FAQ,

Findery is made of notes. A note can be a story, advice, jokes, diatribes, information, memories, facts, advertisements, love letters, grocery lists and manifestos. The content of a note is only limited by your imagination. A note can be shared with the world, one to many people, one to one, or only with yourself.



Findery and the Flickr Map are compelling maps experiences but imagine how powerful they could be if you could experience them in situ. The mobile versions of Flickr and Google+ get at this with a Nearby feature. This sort allows you to browse photos that are nearby to your GPS location. I’ve used it a few times but rarely is it compelling. Even if the photos are only a block away, they lose their connective tissue.

While Google Glass is interesting as an information capture device, the possibility of a viewing device that can potentially line up photos that are taken at the same place is something that really excites me. Once you have a head’s up display connected to a vast library of GPS-tagged photos you can enable clever overlays that show you not only the space around you but also that same space through time.

Check out OldSF – it’s a completely voluntary effort where two folks came together and took the time to put a bunch of photos from the San Francisco Public Library on to a map so you can browse through them. One of the founders of OldSF blogged about the thrill of overlaying one photos from the past and fading to the present (and back again) where you can basically time travel in real life. It’s a genre called, Now and Then photography most recently cataloged in the site, Dear Photograph

Imagine being able to pull up photos from your past, your father’s past, or your grandparent’s past. Ask Google Glass for directions to the nearest pinned memory and then bring it up in your glasses and be able to see that moment, captured in time, while standing on the very spot the photographer stood. Add voice annotation, capture some audio. It’s that moment that puts goosebumps on my arms. It’s that moment, reliving history, your personal history, that makes me excited to try out Google Glass someday.

notre-damePhoto from Tom

Location-based DRM

Reading news of the Loopt acquisition this morning got me thinking. What if someone were to build a service that would check your location and use it as a way to unlock content that would normally sit behind a paywall? Here are a couple of the use case.

Starbucks could do a deal with the Wall Street Journal or New York Times and sponsor free reading when you are within range of a Starbucks. If you check in to pass your location or attach to their wifi then all access will go direct instead of via the paywall. Or maybe the publisher asks for an email address for access and then Starbucks and the publisher can do a revenue share on new subscriber revenue.

Nintendo fans using free wifi outside a store in Tokyo. Stores sponsor free game characters that can only be downloaded from the store's wifi.

This location-based DRM could extend to any publisher:

  • Games that you can only play while you are within a store as a way to trial the experience or enhance existing games.
  • Music that you can sample via Spotify while you are shopping at Target.
  • Apps that can only be downloaded from specific stores.
eBay has some pieces of the puzzle with the combination of PayPal and Where. Match this with Where’s patent on geo-fencing and you have a nice suite of solutions that could build a platform that any publisher could plug into.

Microsoft has a specific patent for Location Based Licensing, I wonder if they’ll ever use it?

Software for the Nokia E71

UPDATE: I’ve now created a dedicated page for mobile software that I recommend. Go to Software for your Nokia to see the latest.

Following up on yesterday’s post about more unique uses for GPS, here’s some stuff I’m running on my Nokia E71 which I’m finding really useful.

Traffic Pilot – download the client to your phone and turn it into a traffic sensor. When running, your location is tracked and used to determine average speed. Crowdsourcing everyone who is running Traffic Pilot is then used to figure out if a road is congested or not. I’ve been using Traffic Pilot for the past few weeks and comparing it to traffic reports on NPR and KCBS and it’s often determined congestion before the incidents are reported on the radio.

Included is a link to “Traffic Report” which will read off conditions for the roads in your area with a helpful scroll bar so you can rewind back if you miss something. Coming soon, Traffic Pilot will use your daily commute patterns to learn which routes you take and send you an SMS if there’s any trouble reported on any of the routes.

Screenshot – useful tool I found to take screenshots of your cellphone screens. It’s not “signed” for the E71 so you need to use the Symbian Signed site to upload the .sis file and get a link to a signed versionThere’s no “camera” key on the E71 so you need to change the default. I use the Backspace key with the 2 second timer.

Google Maps with Streetview – it’s now out for Nokia’s Symbian OS. Figure out what that dive bar your friend told you about looks like from the street.

Skype Lite – for low-cost international dialing. I use it when connected via wi-fi.

Sports Tracker tracks your workouts and plots them on a map which you can share with your buddies. You need a MicroSD memory card (SanDisk 8GB microSD)
to run it for some reason.  Nokia Research is hosting a version of  Sports Tracker that runs on an E71.

Be sure to check out the Solace theme which brings in all the N86 icons and adds a nice gloss to the menus.

5 Uses for Low Cost GPS Tracking

With low cost GPS tracking devices, it is now make it economically feasible to electronically “tag” people and things that you love. A couple of examples:

  1. Lobster Pots
  2. Celebrities such as Simon Cowell
  3. The baby Jesus statue in the nativity
  4. Your pet dog
  5. Lingerie???

But no one has come up with the most obvious application suggested to me by Yahoo Researcher Marc Davis. It’s got to be out there. Has anyone added the ability to turn on your phone’s GPS from a desktop browser so you can find your phone when you’ve lost it?

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Track Me Panel at Web 2.0 Summit

Sharing location has become much easier but it brings up a lot of new questions. Who owns the data, what can you do with this data? Brady Forrest of O’Reilly Media has been exploring these issues with the Where 2.0 conference and brought together four people at this year’s Web 2.0 Summit to discuss the state of the technology.

April Allderdice from MicroEnergy Credits – they connect micro-finance loan officers in the third word with first world companies that want to buy carbon offset credits. Using GPS with their mobile devices, these loan officers can monitor when someone switches from a coal stove to a solar panel and make available those credits in aggregate for bulk offset purchases.

Rich Minor from Google Android – G1 phone can report location via GPS, Cell Tower ID, and Wifi. The Wifi location services is provided via Skyhook. Unlike the iPhone, the G1 phone can run GPS tracking as a background process.

Ted Morgan from Skyhook Wireless – they have a map of wifi access points (70 million) around the world. This allows you to get maps of physical locations, even inside a building (i.e. 4th floor). Skyhook is the wifi locator on the iPhone – there are over 500 apps on the iphone that use location. They also offer an API for web apps (see Loki API documentation). Not covered in the presentation but I just noticed that BrightKite has a Guess My Location feature which uses Loki and Mozilla’s Geode service to determine location based on your IP address.

Greg Skibiski from Sense Networks – the same way Google analyzes links across the web, Sense Network looks at the way people move about in the geo-world to track past behavior to predict future behavior. (i.e. people that sleep in the Noe Valley neighborhood tend to go out to eat in the Union Street area).

Both Twitter and Facebook are missing integrated location information. People are just starting to realize the power of location. For example, on the Android app Cab4me, you can push one button to request a taxi – location is automatically forwarded to the taxi companies. Yahoo’s Fire Eagle platform broke a lot of ground when it launched but it hasn’t really baked itself into the developer ecosystem (yet).

Skyhook has My Loki but the gave over the storing of location to Fire Eagle. They don’t want to create the impression that they are tracking individual users because of the freak-out factor. Verizon delayed enabling location chips for two years while they were writing their privacy policy on location data. Governments can subpoena this information which gives most companies pause on storing this kind of information. Fire Eagle’s privacy policy is quite good with explicit controls over how your data is shared with third parties. Fire Eagle also, by default, send an email reminder indicating your privacy settings to remind you of your settings.

CitySense from Sense Networks – Featured at the top of this post, this app aggregates personal location information with anonymous location data from other members to show activity on a city map. Currently available on Blackberry (iPhone coming soon) and only for San Francisco. Similar in approach to Nokia’s Friend View application.

MacroSense from Sense Networks – they buy taxi cab location data and match it up with zip code (block level) info to get wealth indicators and try and draw correlations with other indicators to try and predict financial indicators. They sell this data to financial firms and do custom analysis for hedge funds.

Output from a MacroSense report such as the Nightlife Activity Index which shows that many people tended to stay out late right before the recent market crash. Other graphs include the SF Morning Arrival Index (concluding that people in the Financial District get to work early when the market is booming, and later when it’s down) and the SF Taxicab Demand Elasticity Index (indicating middle income people tend to order cabs just prior to market downturns).

For more on Location Based Services such as these, see LBS Zone newsletter and O’Reilly’s Where 2.0 conference in May.

Garmin to provide directions to your friends

no original descriptionImage via Wikipedia

Congratulations to my buddy Walt Doyle! His company, publishes the Facebook app, Buddy Beacon, which you use to broadcast your physical location to your friends. They’ve got and iPhone app and, just recently, they announced a partnership with Garmin to provide an overlay to Garmin’s GPS maps so you can see where your online friends are in the physical world.

No more calling your friends for directions to the party. Just have them check in on Buddy Beacon and you can get instant turn-by-turn directions!

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