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Experience travel in 3-D, no silly glasses required

3d travel experience without…


Ever wonder what it’s like to trek to Mount Everest? Unless you’ve got a month of vacation and a big bank account, the next best answer may soon be sitting right in front of you.

Opening to the public on Saturday, Journey to Everest promises to bring Nepal to your computer screen via interactive 3-D. Along the way, the program offers a glimpse into the future of virtual tours.

The Journey was created by Singapore-based 3rd Planet Pte. Ltd. as a portal and marketing tool for the Nepal Tourism Board (NTB). “[This] enables us to showcase our country in a totally new dimension,” said NTB CEO Prachanda Man Shrestha in a statement.

Or several. After registering (free) on the 3rd Planet website, users can explore Kathmandu, navigate around Tribhuvan Airport and fly over the Himalaya to the town of Lukla. Right-click your mouse to activate “fly-through” mode and the scenes get surprisingly realistic.

In Kathmandu, for example, users can walk the streets, peer around corners, even pass through the exterior columns of the Chyasim Deval temple in Patan Durbar Square. (Careful, it takes some coordination not to walk into the walls.) Later, in a scene straight out of “Lost Horizon,” you can ride along as a prop plane works its way over the mountains to the remote town of Lukla.

For now, that’s where the journey ends with the rest of the trek to Everest expected to go live next year. Even so, 3rd Planet CEO Terence Mak believes interactive 3-D travel is ready for prime time. “Pictures and words don’t do justice to a location,” he told “Of all the various ways of remembering information, the human mind remembers it best through experience.”

Others in the industry appear to agree. Last year, 3D Travel of Honolulu launched 3-D portals that combine Google Earth imagery with travel-specific information for Hawaii and Las Vegas.

For Sin City, for example, users can fly along a videogame-like representation of the Strip, ducking under the Eiffel Tower at Paris Las Vegas, following along the roller coaster at New York New York and passing through the fountains at Bellagio. Sidebars let users get more information on hotels, shows and other attractions and, in select cases, make immediate bookings.

The company expects to launch a similar offering for San Francisco in January.

Whether as a marketing platform or booking tool, interactive 3-D travel is still in its infancy. However, it’s likely to become more common as the technology improves, more destinations opt in and more people incorporate tablets and other mobile devices into their travel planning.

“There’s a lot more planning going on with iPads and other tablets,” said Norm Rose of Travel Tech Consulting Inc. “The more you can give people an opportunity to experience the virtual world, the more it will encourage actual travel to those destinations.”

Or, as Mak puts it, “We live in a 3-D world and the best way to understand a destination is in 3-D.”
source: By Rob Lovitt,

Dermandar Panorama photography

360 degrees view with dermandar

For capturing the vastness of a wide-open space, there is nothing quite as effective as a panorama photo. While many iOS apps offer panorama stitching, or even capturing and stitching, few make it as easy as Dermandar Panorama.

The beauty of the $1.99 iPhone app from Dermandar is its simple and speedy interface. Instead of asking you to follow a grid or import photos from your library, Dermandar lets you take photos from within the app and automatically stitches them together for you.

The Capture screen is simple and has only three buttons: Start lets you begin taking your panorama shot; Info brings up handy instructions and tips; and Gallery takes you to thumbnail images of Dermandar shots from around the world

When you start shooting the panorama, Dermandar asks you to pan your phone from right to left to connect the two sides of a yin-yang shaped graphic that floats over the scene. Once the shapes are connected, you wait a split second while Dermandar takes the photo.

When it is done, the yin-yang separates again and you can move further across the scene. The app tethers to points in the scene and uses your iOS device’s built-in accelerometer. When you pan a view, Dermandar tells you, for example, to move farther left and to keep your iPhone level, so the photo consistant. Because of this, it’s really hard to take a bad panorama.

Connect the Halves: The yin-yang is used as a simple visual representation of how far you need to go before the next photo is automatically taken.

The only problems I experienced with the photos (besides things out of my control, like duplicate panels from moving people) was striping from the different light exposures in the component photos and slight perspective problems. Of the three exposure options—auto, locked, and locked on start—only locked didn’t produce striping. It did, however, leave some parts of the panorama over- or underexposed—a problem that I found to be worse than the striping.

Steady Hand: When you start to tilt your device, Dermandar quickly corrects you.

Dermandar stitches photos extremely fast, displaying your panorama in seconds.

You can then choose to keep or delete your new photo.

The resulting panorama is 545 pixels high, and the width varies by how many shots you take—our nearly 360-degree panorama racked up a 1920-pixel width­—not enormous when compared to the average point-and-shoot, but a little large for an iPhone photo.

Once the panorama is stitched, you can save it to your photo library; you can also easily export a shot from the app to Twitter or Facebook as a link to an interactive photo on Dermandar’s simple and easy-to-navigate website.

Photos are uploaded to the Dermandar website only if you deliberately export them and are shared under a user name that you can quickly create.


The result: This photo was taken with Dermandar on the Auto level setting.

Perhaps the coolest thing about Dermandar is the way it has collected and shared its library of images. The world map on Dermandar.comis geotagging at its best. Using Google Maps, you can browse through and comment on photos from all over the world.

In less than five minutes, I was able to find a panorama of the beach in San Diego, where I learned to surf before jumping across the world to find a panorama of a Jenga game in a living room in Herning, Denmark (complete with some deliciously affordable Slots Pilsner).

There are 360-degree views of the Kremlin in Moscow, the Opera House in Sydney, and the Grand Canyon. Dermandar’s website also offers a stitching application, so even if you didn’t have the app when you took your panoramic component shots, you can still upload them to the site’s tool, which will stitch them together in either a 360-degree or wide-angle shot.


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Occipital Brings 360 Panorama To Android

Android app for 360 panoramas

It’s a good day for all you Android lovers out there, because today you’re getting a killer app from iOS land: 360 Panorama. The app is from Occipital, the 2008 TechStars grad, also makers of the (now eBay-owned) barcode scanner Red Laser.

This is the first real-time panoramic photo capture app for Android, as the others on the Android Market require manual capture of separate photos followed by stitching. With 360 Panorama, you just move the device around to capture the image.

In case you’re unfamiliar with 360 Panorama, it’s one of the easiest tools to take a 360-degree photo. All you have to do is launch the app and pan your camera around to take the photo. You can then save, email or share your photo to Facebook or Twitter.

If, on the other hand, you previously used 360 Occipital on iOS, you already know that this is one of the better photography apps ever created. And if you were an iOS user who switched to Android, you’ll be happy to know that you can login once again using your same 360 Panorama credentials from before.

For the most part, the Android version is the same as the older iOS app, but there are a couple of differences. For starters, Android users get one new feature that hasn’t made its way to the iPhone yet: an in-app list of saved panoramas. It should also be noted that the Android app doesn’t use gyroscopes at all yet, so it’s not recommended that you pan it against blank walls. (The next update, V1.1, will tap into gyros when it’s more stable).

There’s an interesting side note to the story of this app’s development, too. Occipital had once abandoned Android development when it started back in 2008, citing performance issues. As Co-founder Jeff Powers wrote then:

Objective-C kills the Java implementation on Android.  It’s almost exactly 100 times faster.  Note that I’m unsure if the memory allocation is included in the timing, so a more conservative statement is that Objective-C can run a tight loop 50 times faster than the Dalvik JVM.  It’s also true that real applications aren’t full of tight loops, and a real Android application won’t be 50 times slower than an iPhone counterpart.  Nevertheless, all else being equal, it will be slower, and potentially a lot slower.

For now, we’re sadly going to put our Android development on hold and switch to iPhone, and keep an eye out for performance improvements.

Today, Android is finally ready for an app like this. “Only now has the OS come around enough to make this even possible (thanks to the NDK and Open GL),” explains Powers.

Android users buying new phones will soon get a built-in panoramic photo capture app of their own with Ice Cream Sandwich’s (Android 4.0) default camera app. But 360 Panorama will work on almost any device made in the last two years, running Gingerbread (Android 2.3) and up.

You can grap the new app this morning for 99 cents from


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Google Places gives virtual tours of shops, businesses

Google streets and virtual tours

Google Street View is to come in from the cold, allowing users to snoop around inside shops and business with a newly launched service called Google Places.

Google has been working on the service, which allows businesses to opt in and allow potential customers to have a peek around through a series of online 360-degree panoramas, since April 2010.

The service is currently being rolled out in major cities in London and Paris, as well as major cities in the US, Australia and New Zealand.

Customer-facing businesses such as restaurants, hotels, shops, gyms, salons and garages can apply for a Google Places listing via an online portal, and the search giant will send photographers to create the panoramas.

Despite Google Places being opt-in, the news has already prompted some to question the privacy implications of the new service, fearing that customers could be caught shopping in places they shouldn’t be, or vital information could be disclosed that could aid criminals or terrorists.

Google seeks to allay these fears on its Google Places FAQ page.

“We’ll either run the 360-degree imagery through our state of the art blurring technology to blur out faces of any employees and customers who appear in the imagery or we won’t publish the still photos if people are in view,” it says, adding: “Business photos capture nothing different to what a customer would see by visiting the business in real life.”

The first business to get the Places treatment is Comics Toons N Toys, a comic book store in Tustin, California. Potential customers can explore the shop using the now-familiar Street View-style navigation arrows.

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