Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Bing Gets OpenStreetMap

Bing Maps has added “OpenStreetMap” as the newest layer available to its online mapping service. It’s also available as a standalone Bing Map App from the Bing Maps gallery. OpenStreetMap (OSM), for those of you unfamiliar, is a project to create an open-source, freely editable map of the world…sort of like the Wikipedia of mapping.

The data in OSM comes from people who record it using GPS devices as well as from free satellite imagery. Once online, it can then be edited by anyone who may know more about a particular area or spots an error. At present, there are around 250,000 users contributing to the project.

By adding OSM as a layer in Bing Maps, you can now easily access this rich data from a f amiliar source: Bing. The data hasn’t been modified in any way, except to fit into the “tile schema” of Bing Maps, explains Chris Pendleton via blog post. Also of note, the data is being hosted on Windows Azure CDN, which is designed to support globally distributed apps such as this.

Bing Gets a Cab Fare Calculator

How much will that taxi ride cost you? A new Bing Maps application can give you the answer. The Taxi Fare Calculator app was developed by Ricky Brundritt for the King of Bing Maps competition.

As you may imagine, the app lets you enter in a starting address and end address and then see what the cab fare may be, as well as the shortest route. (Quick, we need a mobile version of this for tourists! )

Fare estimates are based on rates for cabs in the area, and include pick-up rates and by-the-miles costs, as applicable.

This map app is actually one of many great entries in the contest, several of which are featured here. Other apps include a “World of Football” app, a data viewer app, a pharmacy finder and more.

But the cab fare is my favorite, maybe it’s yours too?

Monday, August 2, 2010

Microsoft Tag

Microsoft Tag connects almost anything in the real world to information, entertainment, and interactive experiences on your mobile phone. Tags are a new kind of bar code that can be displayed anywhere. You can add a Tag to your ads, posters, product packages, flyers, display it on your website, billboards, clothing…the list is endless. When you scan a Tag by using the free Tag Reader application on your mobile phone, it will automatically open a webpage, display a message, or dial a number – there are no long URLs to type or SMS messages to send.
Anyone can create Tags. Put them on your materials or your webpage and you decide what your customers will experience. Unlike other kinds of bar codes, Tags are fully customizable. You can decide to create your Tags in black and white, or you can create colorful Tags that visually represent your business or personal brand in a spectacular manner. It only takes a few minutes to start working with Tag and it is free to scan and create Tags.
5pt; text-indent: -18.0pt; line-height: normal; mso-list: l0 level1 lfo1; tab-stops: list 36.0pt;">· Use a Tag to instantly link to a mobile website or video.
· Scan a Tag on a business card to instantly add someone to your address book.
· All the Tags you've scanned to-date are saved so you can retrieve them later or share with others.
· Create your own Tags using our Tag Manager and view reports on how frequently they are scanned.
Microsoft Tag vs. Other 2D Codes
Linking real-world objects to deeper experiences on mobile phones started in Japan with QR Codes. Microsoft Tag provides a next-generation solution that offers many useful improvements.
Tag is an end-to-end system that provides many capabilities beyond simply opening a URL, and is built upon an architecture that allows for new functionality to be added over time. Instead of just opening a URL, the Tag system leverages dedicated client software and a cloud-based back-end to provide functionality that just isn’t possible with earlier QR Codes. For example, the Tag system has built-in reporting to let you know how your Tags are being scanned, and enables you to provide integrated solutions that span multiple Tags and sessions. And over time, it can provide many other value-added services.
The new bar code format itself also provides many advantages. Tags can be created in a much smaller size than older bar codes and can be read faster and under a wider range of lighting conditions. Tag provides the option to make Custom Tags that full integrate your brand’s personality into the Tag itself, creating colorful, visually exciting codes that don’t distract from your message. Learn more about how to create Custom Tags.
Here are just some of the reasons to use Microsoft Tag:
Adaptable Size
Tag's small size makes it a perfect choice for use in printed materials and visual media forms.
Customized Look and Feel
It's easy to customize the look of a Tag to reflect the personality of the person or a brand.
Single Source
All Tags report back to a single source, ensuring a high consistency in user experience across multiple devices and platform types.
Reliability of Reads
Overcomes limited camera phone optics, resolution, and processing power.
Advanced Analytics
Captures the number of click-throughs and scans of a particular Tag, as well as the resulting responses.
The Tag Reader application runs on all the major phone platforms, and users can instantly download the app from a single site. Even better, unlike older formats, every Microsoft Tag can be read by every Tag Reader, so there is no consumer confusion that results from incompatible solutions. Tags just work.
More about tag visit...

Friday, July 30, 2010

How to Scan Barcodes with Bing for iPhone

Earlier, the Bing iPhone app was updated with a barcode scanning function, meant to be used for comparison shopping purposes. If you’re wondering how this works, the Bing blog has just provided a handy how-to.

However, I noticed a couple of things about the way the instructions were written over there that may be confusing to new users. For one, you don’t “click” anything – you “tap.” Also, the camera is not an icon, it’s text. And you only tap to take a photo when you’re scanning cover art, not barcodes.

Based on my experiences with the Bing app, here’s how I would explain it to new users:

  1. From the Bing’s homepage, tap the word “camera” at the bottom of the page. This launches the iPhone’s camera.
  2. Point the camera at a barcode or, if a book, CD, DVD or video game, you can just point the camera at the cover art.
  3. If a barcode, the app will automatically recognize the code and perform a search. For cover art, you’ll need to tap to take a photo first.
  4. Bing will then search for results. When it finds a match, it’s displayed in a box at the bottom labeled “1 result.” (I’ve yet to scan anything where it finds more than 1 result, but that could happen, I suppose).
  5. Tap the thumbnail to see the result details. Here, you’ll find a description, images, rating, reviews and links of where to buy.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

First Microsoft Hohm Gadget Has Launched

Microsoft is launching its first Hohm-enabled gadget courtesy of a partnership with Blue Line Innovations, a Canadian-based company which sells energy monitoring and management devices. Hohm, for those unaware, is a web service designed to help consumers monitor and analyze their energy consumption and then make recommendations for cost-savings measures.

Previously, using the Hohm website, the Q&A section would have to be filled out based on what you knew about your home – but unless you already had energy-monitoring gadgets installed, your answers were estimates in several cases.

Now, with the new Hohm PowerCost Monitor and WiFi Gateway, you’ll have hard data.

The device hooks up to your home’s power meter (no wiring required!) and reads actual usage. The details are transmitted to your Microsoft Hohm account which displays the data in near real-time graphs and charts (delays are 30 seconds or so). You can also view the data from a mobile device, if desired.

This is only the beginning for Hohm-enabled gadgets: Microsoft plans to connect Hohm with smart plugs, thermostats, HVAC systems, electric vehicles (it’s already in the Ford Focus Electric) and more.

The Blue Line PowerCost Monitor and Wi-Fi Gateway are available today from Blue Line Innovations and through select retailers like Frys, Amazon, and Microsoft stores. The complete package of PowerCost Monitor and Wi-Fi Gateway is available for $249, the Wi-Fi Gateway is

also sold separately for $159.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Skype SDK Now Available for Windows

Developers interested in integrating Skype into their applications can now request access to Skype’s new SDK, called SkypeKit. Available in beta format as of June 14th, the Windows version of the developer’s kit works on Windows x86 operating systems.

Access to the kit is on an invite-only basis at the moment, and interested developers have to go to Skype’s website and fill out an online form detailing their user and organization info.

SkypeKit will allow the integration of voice and video calling and/or IM features into third-party desktop applications or compatible Internet-connected hardware devices. It also offers Skype’s super wideband audio, based on the SILK codec. Developers who use SkypeKit will be able to describe their apps as “plugged into Skype” in their marketing materials, notes a company blog post about the announcement.

To request an invite to the program, you can head over here to the sign up page now.

Microsoft Research Shows off Street Slide View

Engadget (via MIT’s Technology Review) uncovered a cool Microsoft Research project called “Street Slide” view. The project attempts to create a new interface for viewing the street-level photos used in online applications like Bing Maps Streetside View.

As explained on the project’s homepage, today’s mapping applications enable users to virtually visit cities by way of “immersive 360 degree panoramas, or bubbles.” Users move from bubble to bubble, but this doesn’t necessarily provide the best visual sense of a city street.

With Street Slide, the researchers took the best aspects of the “immersive bubbles” and transformed them into multi-perspective strip panoramas. You can actually slide out of a bubble to see the street from a different perspective – a strip that’s viewed from a greater difference. When viewed in this mode, the empty space above and below the strip could be used for business logos and building numbers (addresses), or even ads.

According to the MIT article, the researchers have already made a version of this technology for mobile devices, including the iPhone. “It broadens out your visual sense to cover a two-block radius,” says Michael Cohen, a senior scientist at Microsoft Research.

Who’s hoping for a WP7 phone implementation of this tech? I know I am. In case I didn’t explain this too well, you can see Street Slide in action in the video here.

Introduction to Project Hilo

Get Microsoft Silverlight

Project “Hilo” is a series of articles and sample applications that demonstrate how you can leverage the power of Windows 7, Visual Studio 2010 and Visual C++ to build high performance, responsive rich client applications. Hilo provides both source code and guidance that will help you design and develop compelling, touch-enabled Windows applications of your own. Join Yochay Kiriaty and James Johanson for an introduction of Project Hilo, a quick tour of its architect and design principles.

Additional information about the project can be found in the Introducing Project HILO post, and on MSDN – Hilo: Developing C++ Application for Windows 7

Monday, March 8, 2010

Acer Frameless Laptop & Touchscreen Keyboard?

Would you believe that Acer is working on a frameless laptop with touchscreen keyboard? As far-fetched as the idea might be, it's certainly plausible, expected even. The idea, as rumored by DigiTimes, involves doing away with the display's frame by printing colors directly onto the back of the display's reinforced glass substrate from Corning (a la Gorilla Glass presumably). Coupled with a touchscreen keyboard, the rumored device should be impossibly thin by traditional laptop comparisons. Keep in mind that we've already seen this Frame Zero concept pictured above from Fujitsu and Acer's arch-rival ASUS has been showing off its dual-display laptop prototype with touchscreen keyboard for months. Even the OLPC XO-3 plans to eschew the clickity keyboard in favor of a touchscreen version. And anyone who has ever seen a scifi movie knows that tactile keyboards and display bezels have no role to play in our computing future anyway, so we might as well get things started now -- or in the second half of 2010 according to DigiTimes' sources.

Aiptek PocketCinema Z20 Packs Pico Projector

Watch out, Flip, because here's one tough guy that you don't wanna mess with. Joining Aiptek's family of pocket camcorders is the PocketCinema Z20 -- a fine mix of 720p camera (courtesy of a 5 megapixel sensor) and pico projector of an unknown resolution, powered by a two-hour battery (which we'll believe when we see it). Users will be spoiled by a long list of features: 2GB of internal memory, microSDHC expansion, built-in 2.4-inch LCD, HDMI output, composite video input (iPod adapter included) and remote control. Want it? You can pre-order now for €349 or about $476 ahead of its mid-April launch. Meanwhile, enjoy Aiptek's cheesy promotion video after the break.