Thursday, 22 May 2008

Invited talk at the the Annual International Conference of the Royal Geographical Society 2008

I have been invited to give a talk at the Annual International Conference of the Royal Geographical Society (RGS), taking place between the 27th and the 29th of August at the RGS-IGB headquarters in London. My talk, titled "Mobile 3D Urban Modelling and Visualisation", part of the Geospatial Analysis: GIS & Agent-Based Models session is on Friday the 29th.

The theme of the conference itself is outlined as "Geographies That Matter"; geography has always declared itself as a 'worldly' subject in some way, shape or form. In their attempts to describe, explain, evaluate, map, measure, monitor, model, theorise and reconstruct the world, geographers routinely make decisions about what matters - to themselves and others in the wider society.

The conference theme is an invitation to place geography in its current context and to consider its medium-term future. Like all research and teaching subjects, geography evolves through the combined, relatively ungoverned acts of its many practitioners. But, periodically, it is worth standing back and looking critically, as well as appreciatively, at the 'drift' of the field. What geographies matter to geographers and why? Which ought to be the focus of our energies? How do answers relate to the geographies valued (or not) by social actors in the wider world, communities, states, corporations, publics and many others besides?

The discipline of geography is much smaller than the discourse of geography, a discourse comprising all those geographical knowledges and representations of the world produced and disseminated by myriad actors who are not in any formal sense 'geographers'. The geographies that matters to geographers and others sometimes coincide, sometimes not, raising the perennial question of the subject's wider role in socio-environmental change, conservation and transformation.

What are the geographies that matter, to who and why? And what is the role of geographical research, teaching and advocacy in respect of them? These questions oblige us not to be overly introspective but, rather, to look outwards to a world bursting with possibility, challenge, interest and danger.

Check the conference out at

Research in game violence

An interesting piece of news in gaming research; Tiga, the national trade association representing game developers in the UK and in Europe, has come out in support of fresh research from the University of Essex claiming the link between video game violence and real-world aggression to be weak, calling it an "important contribution to the debate".

The research, published in the International Journal of Liability and Scientific Enquiry and written by Patrick Kierkegaard, suggests that there is very little evidence to link the two, and that previous research on the subject has suffered from a bias to the opposite conclusion. "Kierkegaard’s argument that there is no obvious link between real-world violence statistics and video games is an important contribution to the debate on video games and violence", said Tiga CEO Richard Wilson.

"Too often video games are blamed for all manner of society’s ills. Kierkegaard’s research helps to redress the balance. No single piece of research will settle the issue concerning the influence of video games conclusively. The crucial points are that children and young people should be protected from viewing inappropriate content, while adult gamers should typically be free to play mature games".

New issue of IEEE CG&A journal out, special issue on urban modelling

The latest issue of the very respected IEEE Computer Graphics And Applications journal is dedicated to urban modelling issues. As computer graphics simulations of our natural world continue to improve, effectively depicting our human environment is becoming increasingly important. Our everyday world consists not simply of basic materials and objects, but also of the things we make from them. Our cities are simultaneously the most complex and the most common of these things. To automate city modeling, researchers are beginning to revive research on procedural modeling, simulating not only natural processes but the human processes that shape our urban environment. This special issue captures a good snapshot of work in this emerging area.

Articles in the issue, a must IMO for anyone remotely interested in the urban modelling area, include a tutorial by Watson and colleagues which surveys prior work and studies in using procedural urban modeling. Chang and colleagues present methods for controlling the complexity in urban environments while Aliaga and colleagues describe a new system for editing urban layouts.

Mendez and colleagues describe a system for visualizing the underground infrastructure that all urban residents rely on, but most know so little about. Finkenzeller describes a method for modeling building facades, floor plans, and roofs that segments modeling into a manual sketch of a rough shape and a procedural elaboration of that shape using a certain style. Finally, Weber’s work describes how to animate procedurally generated trees in real time.

You can check out this issue of the journal at the following link:

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Out with the old (Dell Axim X51v) and in with the new (ASUS R2HV)...

On a more personal note, after a number of years of trusty service (bought in early December 2005) I am retiring my Dell Axim X51v, which to this day I think was a revolutionary device as far as PDAs are concerned (to date I have not found a commercially available PDA with a dedicated graphics card!) and replacing it with the ASUS R2HV, both for research application development and also for everyday-task use.

Here's a short breakdown of the technical specs the almost tablet-like ASUS has:

- Processor & Cache Memory
Intel® Pentium® M 723, 1GHz, 2MB L2 Cache
- Operating System
Genuine Windows Vista® Home Premium
- Chipset
Intel® 915GM
- Main Memory
On board 256MB DDR 533MHz, 1 x SODIMM socket for expansion up to 1280 MB DDRII-667 DRAM support
- Display
7" active matrix TFT(800x480)
- Video Graphics & Memory
Embedded Intel® 915 GM internal GFX
- Hard Drive
1.8" 30/40/60/80 GB
- Optical Drive
DVD-DUAL External (Optional)
- Card Reader
SD card slot push / push type
- Fax/Modem/LAN/WLAN
On board 10/100 LAN (optional)Integrated 802.11b/gBuilt-in Bluetooth™ V2.0+EDR (optional)
- LED Status Indicator
Power on/SuspendLED off (Battery Full) /LED on (Charging)/Low(LED sparkle)H DDWLAN enablingBluetooth
- Interface
1 x R2H Port Bar connector for external hub(S/PDIF, VGA, DC-in, 3 USB, LAN) / VGA function support via VGA Cable2x USB 2.0A ports1 x mini-USB2.0A port1 x Microphone1 x Headphone1 x AV (Audio + Video) out1 x RJ45 (Lan port)

Read a review of the device here. As for the old, long-deleted from Dell, Axim I will of course keep it as a backup but also in the hope that it may well fetch a great price on eBay one day!

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Quake 3 Arena ported on iPhone

Advertisements have shown us that the iPhone is a tool with a wide array of functions, YouTube perusing, calamari ordering and even astronaut deafening, to name but a few. But no commercials have warned of the iPhone's (and the iPod Touch's) sinister, newly implemented abilities such as fragging, railgunning and gibbing.

This regarding of course the handheld's recently developed Quake 3 Arena application, which uses the device's touch screen and accelerometer to crudely recreate that warm, familiar mouse-and-keyboard feeling. What is even more impressive, and can be seen on the YouTube vid above are the multiplayer capabilities. It is very intriguing to see the iPhone expanded in the mobile gaming direction and this recent development has been one of the more interesting ones I've seen. Hopefully more titles, including new original games, are to follow.

London Games Festival returns in October 2008

Following two successful previous outings, the London Games Festival is back, with this year's event promising to be the biggest yet and scheduled to take place the week commencing October 25. "Last year's London Games Festival was a huge success," said Chairman of the London Games Festival Keith Ramsdale. "We've got plenty in store for 2008 and a whole host of major partners lined up with full support from the industry. We're really looking forward to bringing the gaming industry to life in the capital again."

Expect the return of large-scale events in both Leicester and Trafalgar Square, as well as the return of the Careers Fair for those keen to find their way into the industry.

For more details on this one check the official site of the festival found at

Sunday, 18 May 2008

Geographic Visualization: Concepts, Tools and Applications Book

Brought to my attention by the Digital Urban blog, Geographic Visualization: Concepts, Tools and Applications is a book available in all good book stores, edited by Martin Doge, Mary McDerby and Martin Turner. It includes a chapter by the people on Digital Urban on the 'Visual City' and is genuinely a must read for those interested in the field.The text covers the impact of three-dimensional displays on user interaction along with the potentialities in animation and clearly explains how to create temporally sensitive visualizations. It also explores the potential for handling mobile data and representing uncertainty; as well as the role of participatory visualization systems and exploratory methods.

It's hallmark features include: an introduction to the diverse forms of geographic visualization which draws upon a number of theoretical perspectives and disciplines to provide an insightful commentary on new methods, techniques and tools; richly illustrated in full colour throughout, including numerous relevant case studies and accessible discussions of important visualization concepts to enable clearer understanding for non-technical audiences; and, chapters that are written by leading scholars and researchers in a range of cognate fields, including, cartography, GIScience, architecture, art, urban planning and computer graphics with case studies drawn from Europe, North America and Australia.

This book looks like an invaluable resource for all graduate students, researchers and professionals working in the geographic information sector, computer graphics and cartography. It can be bought here.

Friday, 9 May 2008

Virtual Magic, exploring Disneyland in 3D

A very interesting blog I ran across recently is Joe Cardello's Virtual Magic. It's been running for almost a year now and details the 3D reconstruction of the Disneyland theme park as a large scale CG model using the free program Blender. The work kicked off with a few backstage show buildings lacking much detail or accuracy but has evolved over the last twelve months with the ultimate goal to model as much of the park as possible, with as much attention to detail and accuracy as is reasonably and enjoyably possible.

This is a very interesting project, as the vid above testifies and a great reminder of how effective manual modelling can be, even with the use of modest tools such as Blender. Check the link of the blog above for further vids (Joe has even posted some Blender tutorial videos, very useful for those uninitiated in the package) and still images. Well worth checking out!

Animation Expose 2008, University Of Hertfordshire

The Digital Animation Exposé (Film Day) is an annual event hosted at the University of Hertfordshire’s Weston Auditorium, 25 minutes from Kings Cross north London. Showcasing the best student films from the current academic year, the event also includes free presentations from leading professionals in the animation, film and games industries. The student animated films are in heated competition for top prizes in 6 categories, one of which is awarded by audience voting.

This year promises, according to the organisers, to be their best yet, with the event hosted on Thursday the 22nd of May. Confirmed Speakers include Framestore (on the Oscar winning VFX of Golden Compass), Rare ( on next-generation games), Graham Ralph (on direction of 2D / CGI films), Redvision (on character animation headcases), KUJU (on next-generation animation) and finally SCEE (Sony Computer Entertainment Europe).

For more information and also for registering check the event's site at

Nokia SNAP 2.0 released

More intuitive tools are now available in a new SDK of Java multiplayer gaming technology since a new SDK for Nokia's SNAP mutliplayer gaming platform has been released. Version 2.0 of the development kit boasts a simpler API and faster emulation and testing tools. It is free to obtain through Forum Nokia - which boasts it is the largest 'mobile development community worldwide with 3.4 million registered members'. A number of developers have already been using the SDK, said Nokia - with positive results. "The SNAP Mobile SDK 2.0 makes it easier for developers to write and debug a connected mobile Java game, and brings fun to development," said Randolf Wu, business development director, PocketNet.

"I had the SDK up and running on my desktop within minutes of downloading. It's invaluable as it provides a realistic game play environment for a cellular network. For example, it can simulate error conditions so that we can check that our games will respond appropriately when an error occurs. The SNAP Mobile SDK is a mature toolset to the point where bugs are not really an issue, and it just gets better and better with each release."

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Virtual Pompeii using the CyberCarpet and CityEngine projects

A stroll around the ancient city of Pompeii will be made possible this week thanks to an omni-directional treadmill developed by European researchers. The treadmill is a "motion platform", demonstrated in the video below in action, which gives the impression of "natural walking" in any direction. The platform, called CyberCarpet, is made up of several belts which form an endless plane along two axes. Scientists have combined the platform with a tracking system and virtual reality software recreating Pompeii (CityEngine, detailed in a previous post on this blog, found here).

The key to the CyberCarpet is a platform with a large chain drive. The chain drive is made up of 25 conventional treadmills which move in one direction, at right angles to the direction the chain is pulling. The platform gives "walkers" a walking area of 4.5m by 4.5m and moves fast enough to allow jogging at about two metres per second. Omni-directional treadmills are not new and have been in development for many years, including work done by the US military but this, included with the virtual reconstruction of the city, creates a far more engaging experience...

For more information the CyberCarpet and the CityEngine modelling approach check the links below.