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Posted by on Nov 30, 2010

Building Rome on a Cloudless Day

A friend brought this to my attention as he happened to know of my interest in urban cultural heritage and mobile augmented reality for the #ededc final assignment. This is a project at the University of North Carolina that essentially is using openly available Flickr photos to “build” highly complex 3D cities in an automated fashion. Using millions of images and a single personal computer, the algorithm can essentially build one of these sophisticated models in under a day. In this instance, Rome is built with only freely accessible Flickr images (over a million of them).

According to the article in ReadWriteWeb (fantastic site, by the way), which is quoting the lead researcher Jan-Michael Frahm:

“Our technique would be the equivalent of processing a stack of photos as high as the 828-meter Dubai Towers, using a single PC, versus the next best technique, which is the equivalent of processing a stack of photos 42 meters tall – as high as the ceiling of Notre Dame – using 62 PCs. This efficiency is essential if one is to fully utilize the billions of user-provided images continuously being uploaded to the Internet.”

So, what does this mean for posthuman, cyborg, or any other pedagogies? As far as I am concerned, it extends the perception of the (post)human, allowing for complicated representations to be crafted based on a mixture of want and need (I want to see a rendering of Paris) and automated algorithms (now technology, go do that for me). Imagine a flaneur (as in literally wandering the streets) that never sets foot in the material city of investigation. Granted, a flaneur does that now for constructs and power dynamics, language, and so forth, but this is a good step forward for spatial studies, especially those only liminally related to science (more Humanities based fields). You could add further layers of context to this image construct.

  • Sound- imagine audio of the streets, the cars, the noise, the vendors, the markets, the sirens.
  • Video-embed video right along with the images. See space and time intersect.
  • Contextual information-temperature, weather, history, architecture

It is basically a step towards virtual systems that can not only represent, but mediate to some degree of completeness the affect of humans. We are in this stage of technology and crowd participation where we are fascinated with just getting it out there, connecting, looking, pondering. This is the next phase, the construction of complex systems to mirror the governing dynamics of communities.

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2 Comments

  1. I don’t know if you saw this link?

    am wondering if it would fit your assignment focus on “urban cultural heritage and mobile augmented reality”

    • Absolutely brilliant, Sue. That is perfect for my final assignment. Essentially, that takes something ancient, antiquated, historical, something seen as solid and unmoving and posits it against the medium of time. Architecture are fluid, living objects changing with time, changing with interpretation and representation. Always in flux.

      Imagine the learning that could occur if each and every one of us could see buildings play out the course of their existence in front of you (say rear projected on glasses or something)? Imagine being able to see history unfold and learners attempt to recast these “solid” objects as knowledge constructs? Imagine walking down the streets of Paris and doing this for everything, highlighting all the structures in red that are pre-Revolution and yellow for post? A brave new world of representation.

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