NDN Blog

An Interesting Example of How Mobile is Changing Everything

Wired today reports that "despite its minimal camera features, the iPhone has just surpassed Canon’s Digital Rebel XTi as the most popular camera used by members of image-sharing website Flickr." This trend is largely due to the iPhone 3GS's much-improved 3MP camera, the ease of uploading pictures directly from the phone, and just the fact that people have their phones with them a greater percentage of the time than their DSLRs. 

The same article also reports that the iPhone has had a similar effect on YouTube:

A day after the launch of the iPhone 3GS, YouTube video uploads increased 400 percent, according to YouTube officials Dwipal Desai and Mia Quagliarello. They said the growth was likely tied to newer video-enabled phones on the market (including the iPhone), improvement of the upload flow and a new, streamlined process to share videos on social networks.

A 400% increase in video uploads from mobile devices is huge. However, don't expect this trend to stay confined to the iPhone; more and more phones are combining good cameras and video capability with easy uploading, meaning that citizen journalism and web video will continue to become increasingly intertwined with mobile.

Movement to Drop Race-Baiting Pundits Builds Momentum

At Netroots Nation last week, Simon was on a panel with Media Matters, America's Voice and Color of Change talking about right-wing hatred of Obama and its manifestations in the media. At the panel, Simon told the room that, by mounting a smart and sustained campaign, we have the power to get hate-mongers like Glenn Beck and Lou Dobbs, with their consistent lies and distortions and their unacceptable public racism, off the airwaves.

We're now one step closer to that happening. Several days ago, Simon wrote a post called "Beck Loses Advertisers, Dobbs Should Be Worried." Since that was posted, at least 8 more major companies have pulled their ads from Beck's program over his assertion that Obama is a racist who has a "deep seated hatred of whites and white culture [whatever that is]." Even by the near-nonexistent standards over at Fox, this was apparently a bridge too far for many - pressure from Color of Change has caused a number of advertisers to back out, and Media Matters is keeping up the pressure:

The racism and xenophobia of demagogues like Dobbs and Beck have no place anywhere in the media, even on the 24/7 right-wing propaganda outlet known as Fox News (or is the Republican party itself an organ of Fox News now?). Nobody wants to be associated with this sort of naked, ugly hatred, which has nothing to do with a legitimate debate about the issues, which is why advertisers are backing away. It's unclear that Fox will fire Beck, despite this unwanted attention - his ratings remain high, and Fox caters to a particularly conservative and, coincidentally, ignorant audience. But Lou Dobbs has no place on a purportedly ideology-neutral network like CNN, and I think his days there may be numbered.

New Tools Update: A Small Pre-Vacation Post

I'm about to head out of town until Netroots Nation next week, which means no weekly New Tools feature tomorrow (I know, it's sad...be strong). So to get you through the next week, here's an amazing video from Japan demonstrating holograms. Not just any holograms, mind you; holograms that you can touch! Check it out.

New Tools Update: Breakthrough in Augmented Reality Tech

Those of you who are familiar with augmented reality have probably noticed the specific high-contrast markers needed for many AR apps to work - for example, this AR business card uses a marker so that the camera knows where the card is in space and how it is oriented. Apps like AcrossAir and TwitAround don't need this, since they are relying on location information generated in other ways, but most applications that use a camera to recognize an external object and overlay information have needed these markers - until now.

As @augReality reports, "Georg Klein of Oxford University has been working on a system called PTAM - Parallel Tracking and Mapping. This is software which allows for real time tracking of a video stream, and they’ve just gotten the system running on an iPhone. Translation: no more high-contrast AR markers."

Check out the video here. This is a big deal. My guess is in the pretty near future, you'll start seeing augmented reality ads and posters, where you hold your phone up to a 2D poster and it comes to life on your screen. Check out this amazing demo video for an idea of where this software could go:

Friday New Tools Feature: A New Dimension in Media

Staying with last week's theme of futuristic stuff that's happening right now (no, not inexpensive space tourism), there were a number of major advances in the world of 3-dimensional media this week.

First up, we have crowd-sourced 3D modeling technology. It basically uses a lot of computing power to stitch together thousands or millions of tourpist photos to create detailed 3D views of particular locations. To get an idea of how this will work, check out this model made with Photosynth using Flickr photos. 

Eventually, you'll see things like this in photorealistic detail. CT2 predicts that "Eventually, every city in the world will get a full textured 3D view of itself."

If seeing a 3D model on a 2D screen doesn't do it for you, you'll be happy to know that Sky has just introduced a 3D channel, which will be available in 2010. The system will require a 3D-ready TV, and you'll have to wear polarized glasses similar to those currently used for 3D movies to get the desired effect. Still, the main takeaway is that movies and sporting events will be making their way to home systems within the year. And that's a big deal. I mean, maybe if we can get soccer in HD 3D, Americans will finally get it.

Finally, if you hate those 3D glasses but want your 3D, don't despair. Fujifilm just released a demo of one of the coolest gadgets I've seen in a while, the Finepix Real 3D W1, which is set to drop around Christmas-time. The camera takes 3D pictures which pop out of the viewscreen on the back, no glasses required. The guys at Stuff got their hands on one, and were blown away by it:

I’ve just handled the future. I feel like Rod Taylor from The Time Machine, except my means of time travel is a Barbara Windsor-like Fujifilm representative, rather than a silly brass chair with a parasol twirling pathetically out of its behind.

...the amazing bit, the bit that you’ll want to show all your friends, is that you can see the photos popping out of the rear LCD in proper 3D, without any need to wear stupid glasses. That is the wonder of a lenticular screen.

You can then get those 3D pictures on lenticular print paper (which will run you about $5 each at this point), or put them on Fuji's 8" digital 3D picture frame.

None of this really has direct applications to politics at this point in time (that I can think of). But know that 3D home entertainment, news, sports, photographs, and games are coming now, and they're going to be the next big thing.

New Tools Update, Part 2: iPhone SDK 3.1 Beta Now Available

The iPhone 3.1 Beta developers kit was released today. As I mentioned earlier today, 3.1 will support augmented reality. So, if you have any good ideas for AR apps, get to work! Keep an eye out here for more news on AR apps in the pipeline - I'm sure that, with today's beta release, they'll start popping up by next month.

Monday Buzz: Obama's Restraint, Generational Attitudes & Health Care Reform, More

Simon had an op-ed published by Demos and Open Left about the challenges progressives face in the 21st century, and why we are better-suited to address them:

The challenges in front of the center-left political parties of the West today are extraordinary, the greatest we have faced since the rise of European fascism seventy years ago. Today, as in the past, only a progressive vision is fit to meet them. Facing them forthrightly, and showing the courage to tackle them head-on will be perhaps the greatest test of them all.

Rob had an extended quote this week in a big Associated Press story about defecits and spending. From the article, by Tom Raum:

"I think the Republican attack on the deficit is succeeding because it's real," said Rob Shapiro, a former economic adviser to President Bill Clinton, and chairman of Sonecon, an economic-consulting firm.

Obama is factual in saying he inherited a trillion-dollar-plus deficit from predecessor George W. Bush, "but he made it worse," Shapiro said. The deficit in the current budget year is now estimated to come in at more than $1.8 trillion, pushed higher by the stimulus spending, bailouts and increasing war costs.

Shapiro said he believes White House officials are taking the GOP attacks very seriously. "They're also concerned about long-term deficits and the impact they could have on the economy and on the ability to act two, three years down the road — which of course is moving up to the re-election season," he said.

Rob was also quoted by Donald Lambro in the conservative publication Townhall:

Listen to what Democrat Robert Shapiro, a top economist in the Clinton administration's Commerce Department, had to say in a recent analysis for the New Democratic Network: "Even so, the healthcare reforms being considered by Congress all involve even higher healthcare costs for most businesses, which will mean more job cuts even as the economy grows. No one questions that healthcare reform is an urgent, national priority -- as are efforts to contain the risks of climate change. But we gain little except a false sense of accomplishment by enacting healthcare reforms that also aggravate the new jobs problem, or climate legislation such as Waxman-Markey which cannot deliver significant reductions in greenhouse gases," he wrote.

Instead, Shapiro advises his party "to first focus on the underlying problems in the current downturn and the issues with jobs and incomes -- before we take on broad and urgent reforms in other areas. The politics, if nothing else, virtually dictate it, since a growing economy that creates large numbers of new jobs and pushes up incomes is always a prerequisite for the public's support for reforms that, one way or another, end up imposing new costs on them."

Rob's latest column, "The Problem with Jobs and Wages," was also featured in Mark Thoma's Economist's View and published in the Huffington Post.

Morley and Mike had an excellent op-ed about health care reform and generational attitudes in Roll Call. The full text is available on our blog here.

Finally, Michael Moynihan had a thought-provoking piece on trade and carbon featured in Grist.

New Tools Update: AR Coming to iPhone App Store in September

In my post on augmented reality on Friday, I mentioned that one of the hurdles for AR was that Apple had not yet enabled the API necessary for it to work, and speculated that that was likely to change in the near future. And lo, right as I was writing that, it was announced that Apple would change this policy with the release of iPhone OS 3.1 in September - though because it makes use of the compass, these apps won't be coming to those of us with the lowly old iPhone 3G. So those of you lucky enough to have a new iPhone should keep an eye out when September rolls around.

Friday New Tools Feature: Augmented Reality Is Now a Reality

Augmented reality tech is one of the most intriguing new spaces in mobile technology. If you look it up in Wikipedia, you will learn that augmented reality is "a field of computer research which deals with the combination of real-world and computer-generated data (virtual reality), where computer graphics objects are blended into real footage in real time." That's a bit vague, however, and doesn't really capture the excitement and the promise of AR technology, which is going to be a really big deal in the near future (and if you don't have a smartphone yet, maybe this will push you over the edge).

Back when Google Latitude first launched, I wrote about how location-aware mobile technology was going to have a big impact on the way we navigate the world around us. Augmented reality provides a striking example of what I meant. Check out this video of the iPhone 3GS running the AcrossAir app, which shows you the nearest subway stops and their lines in a really useful and innovative way:

But say you're not just visiting the area, and want to find a place to stay long-term. Yes, there is an app for that too (though Layar's not on the iPhone yet):

Or, you are addicted to Twitter and want to see a live view of the recent tweets around you and where they're coming from - check out TwittaRound:

Augmented reality doesn't just have to be used with your mobile location, either; check out this AR business card (sure to get someone's attention better than an ordinary piece of paper):

There are already lots of other applications of AR under development, including an app that will help blind people navigate by sensing objects and obstacles in the environment around them. And the possibilities are almost endless. This app, which combines facial recognition with AR and social networking, is just a concept right now, but it's probably not as far off as you might think.

There are some hurdles: right now, there are a limited number of handsets with the hardware to support augmented reality, and although the iPhone can (as these videos demonstrate), Apple's API does not allow developers to fully take advantage of AR. Eventually, that will probably change, and with the slew of new Android phones about to hit the market that support AR, I think this technology is going to become much more mainstream over the next year to 18 months. Despite the usual lag time in technological adoption in politics, AR has an incredible variety of potential applications for politics; it's only a matter of time until a full-featured campaign app appears which takes advantage of AR to help canvassers perform their jobs more efficiently (for example). If you can think of other ways to use AR for politics, get moving fast enough and you might be the next app developer success story.

Cool Video on the "Anthropology of Youtube"

Just wanted to share my favorite highlight from this year's PDF conference (except for Simon and Morley's session, of course). This is Michael Wesch giving an excellent talk about the intersection of technology and the "politics of authenticity," a phrase which borrows from Charles Taylor's "The Ethics of Authenticity" (one of my favorite books as an undergraduate). His generational theory has some problems (which I've mentioned to him in the comments section of his site), but even so, it's still definitely worth watching and killed with the PDF crowd. Check it out:

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