Highlights from the 2014 LA Auto Show

Mapping

The FINIS Hydro Tracker GPS device allows open water swimmers to map their swims and recor...

For those of us who just swim lengths in pools, keeping track of where we’ve swum is pretty easy. When it comes to triathletes and other people who swim in lakes or the open ocean, however, there aren’t any lane markers to look back on. Instead, they can now use the Hydro Tracker GPS, made by California water sports tech company FINIS. The waterproof device attaches to the user’s goggle straps, then uses GPS technology to create a map of where they’ve been, while also recording performance data.  Read More

Pix4D is a program that creates 3D aerial images by combining hundreds of 2D photographs, ...

While Google Earth can be extremely useful - not to mention a lot of fun - it now has some competition in the form of Pix4D. Instead of satellites, the imaging system uses a small, relatively inexpensive unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) to acquire several hundred 2D photographs of a given geographical area. Those photos are then merged into one image, which users can explore in three dimensions on a computer screen.  Read More

Simultaneous Localization and Mapping (SLAM) software analyzes data from stereo camera vie...

We've looked at a number of efforts to extend the capabilities of the traditional white cane for the visually impaired, such as using ultrasonic echoes or lasers to give users a better lay of the land. But a group of engineering researchers at the University of Southern California (USC) are looking to do away with the cane altogether and replace it with a "guide vest" that works in conjunction with a helmet-mounted camera and special software to let wearers "see" the world through tactile feedback.  Read More

Computing and robotics expert Henrik Christensen, with one of the MAST robots (Photo: Geor...

Imagine you're a firefighter arriving at a burning building, but you have no idea what the interior layout of that building is. Do you just enter, then risk your life by randomly walking up and down smokey hallways looking around? What would work better would be if someone or something could quickly map out the building first, then you could take that information and concentrate on getting directly where you need to go. That's the idea behind the U.S. Army's Micro Autonomous Systems and Technology (MAST) Collaborative Technology Alliance Program, which would see swarms of small rolling, hopping, crawling or flying robots working together on reconnaissance missions in civilian or military applications.  Read More

The Swinglet CAM can take off, snap aerial photos along a chosen route and then land, wher...

With the help of the Swinglet CAM you can create your very own local aerial map a la Google Maps, or monitor wildlife distribution in a given area, or maybe just get a feel for what's going on in the neighborhood. The small, unmanned aerial vehicle can take off and land on its own and its integrated camera will snap high resolution images along a predetermined flightpath or as directed by remote control.  Read More

China has launched its own online mapping service, called Tianditu.cn or 'Map World

China recently launched the state-sponsored Tianditu.cn or "Map World," the country's homegrown answer to Google Maps. While it's an impressive initial effort, the mapping system does resemble Google's a little too much, and it also performs poorly once you navigate outside of Chinese borders.  Read More

UC Berkeley's laser-scanning backpack creates 3D models of buildings, on the fly

Currently, if people wish to obtain a 3D model of an indoor environment, they have to send in a laser-scanning robot or cart that painstakingly makes its way through in a stop-and-start fashion. Depending on the setting, the process can take days or even weeks. Researchers at the University of California in Berkeley, however, have developed a portable laser-scanning backpack that can map an area in the time that it takes for its human wearer to walk through. The project was funded by the US Air Force Office of Scientific Research and the Army Research Office, and could be used by military personnel to plan missions into mapped target buildings.  Read More

The panoramas that users can 'slide' along in Microsoft's Street Slide (Image: Microsoft R...

Users of Google Street View and Bing Maps Streetside will be familiar with the stop-start effect as they navigate along a street. This is because as the user moves along the street the viewpoint jumps from one discreet 360-degree panorama, or ‘bubble’, to the next . A new street-level imaging system developed by Microsoft called Street Slide allows users to smoothly navigate along a street by creating a seamless transition between bubbles using multiperspective strip panoramas that provide an overview of the street.  Read More

The Urban Forest Map relies on community contributions to build information sharing, and c...

How do we get a good picture of what trees are where, how they are affecting or contributing to the environment, and what problems they might be susceptible to in today's changing world? The main problem with recording this vital information is (to borrow a line) “tree people like planting trees, they don't like entering data.” So why not throw the task open to the local community? The Urban Forest Map is a one-stop repository using information contributed from any willing group or individual and aims to engage community participation to build a complete, dynamic picture of the urban forest.  Read More

Users of the TamTam flash concept would be offered either a turn by turn navigation or a f...

The TamTam Flash concept GPS torch is both a familiar looking and new technology in a number of ways. It resembles an ordinary flashlight and its name sounds an awful lot like TomTom, which neatly links to the fact that the concept torch is actually a GPS mapping device that gives its user the option of either a street map view or a turn by turn guided navigation projected onto a surface.  Read More

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