Tag Archives: Google

Google Trike and the Street View Team

Google TrikeIf you keep a sharp lookout you might catch the Google Street View team driving around a campus near you. This past Wednesday I caught up with the Street View car and the specially modified Google Trike on the campus of Kapiolani Community College. A couple of years ago, the team was here mapping the main streets on Oahu with the Street View car. With the use of the Trike, the main focus is the pathways of the University of Hawaii campuses. From what I could see the image capture equipment looked similar to the system on the car. The system is mounted on a fairly large tricycle. The camera system is powered by a gasoline powered generator but the trike is purely people powered. In an email response to a question I posed about availability of maps, Google's public affairs office told me that:
Our Street View trikes have special cameras that take photographs as thee operator pedals along. Once the photographs have been taken, they go through computer processing to make them ready for use on Google Maps. This includes stitching the photographs into 360-degree panoramic images and cutting-edge face blurring technology, which helps make sure that passers-by in the photographs can't be identified and blurs legible license plates. Once we've collected and processed the imagery for an area, we add it to Google Maps. It goes without saying, therefore, that the imagery isn't real-time, and usually takes several months from when the photographs are taken until the panoramics appear on Google Maps.
The Street View team is mapping all the community colleges as well as the University of Hawaii's Manoa campus. The Google car and trike then head off to the neighbor islands to map out the UH campuses there. As I started to leave a crowd began to form around the Google Trike to snap some photos. It is an interesting time for Google. Their popularity is undeniable but places like Germany and Japan are reacting vocally against their lost of privacy resulting from the Street View images. Yesterday a Federal judge said Google could be held liable for 'wiretapping" for collecting wifi data on Street View runs. And on top of all this is the Federal Trade Commissions investigation of Google for antitrust business practices. Someone once told me, "you know you're successful when everyone wants to sue you. Just take a number and stand in line."

Motorola Droid

Motorola DroidFor the past week or so I've had the pleasure of using a Motorola Droid courtesy of Verizon Wireless. It's a loaner so I have to return it shortly. As these are my first impressions, I am going to make the obvious comparisons to the iPhone 3GS which I will admit I am in love with. The first question I have is without an iTunes like interface, how does one sync all the content to the Droid? At first take it is not intuitively obvious. Neither is it on second take. I thought I might be able to drop content into the Droid if I plug it into my laptop but Finder on my MacMini did not see any Droid device or storage. The Droid did recognize the Mac as a power source, though. So loading music and podcasts will have to wait. The next thing I did was search for applications. The Droid menu includes something called a Market launchable from an icon that looks like a little briefcase. Clicking that brings up the Android marketplace. From here you can search and select from thousands of Android apps. The big difference from the iPhone is Google is not restricting any apps from being made available for the Droid. The vetting process that Apple subjects all the apps getting into the iTunes Store is a big sore point for many developers. As will all things there is a plus side and a downside. For Google Android it is open to anyone wanting to develop for their Droid phones.  The downside is that there exists the possibility for some nefarious applications to be downloaded to your phone. In the Apple case, they control access but with the promise that it will be a user friendly environment. Once you find an application you like in Market you just click on it and Install. The app gets downloaded directly to your phone from the Verizon 3G network. I tried a few of the popular titles like Seesmic for Twitter access, Yelp for restaurants and ShopSavvy for barcode reading. All worked fine except Yelp did not have the augmented reality feature as found on the iPhone version. I did like the Google Goggles app just announced last week. With it you can snap a picture of a book, a product, a landmark, even a face. Goggles will then scan the image and return search information based on your image. Very cool. The Motorola Droid phone is solid, even a bit heavier than the iPhone 3GS. I've heard a lot of people complain about the physical keyboard but people complained about the iPhone screen keyboard when it first came out. My only comment is since the Droid has a screen keyboard, it could do away with the physical keyboard and reduce some weigh and complexity. The screen for the Droid is very crisp making for clear images. I also like the Voice activation capabilities with the Droid. I must also mention, last week there was an upgrade to the Android operating system to 2.0.1. The phone automatically prompted me of the update and proceeded to download it. Quite seamless. All in all a very nice phone. One that will be a major player in the smartphone market. Right now though IMHO, the Droid is more suited for the early geek adopter. The true test is the Mom test. Moms are more incline to get immediate benefit from the iPhone before the Droid. I'll update this post as I get more information. Unfortunately I will have to return this phone shortly. Stay tuned to the Dec. 30 edition of Bytemarks Cafe where we will have a couple of gadget geeks on to talk about their impression of the Droid.