Augmented Reality Art

A couple of weeks ago I crossed Grand Island in New York State, a rather desolate place at this time of year near the border with Canada. I was interested in a virtual art installation involving augmented reality, and quite a find it was too.

It turns out that in In September 1825, Major Mordecai Noah founded a city state called Ararat on Grand Island, “a city of refuge for the Jews”. His idea was to create a Jewish homeland. Noah’s dream never came to fruition, until that is a group of academics and artists decided to create a virtual tour of how the city might look today had it been constructed.

Ararat Virtual Monument

Ararat Virtual Monument

The tour involves downloading an app into your smartphone, and travelling to specific areas on the island. When you look through the camera of the phone various structures appear in the view that are not present in reality. There is a copy of a memorial that was designed but has fallen into decay, a synagogue, school, a theme park and various other typical structures. The group also produced postcards, stamps and money, as well as other objects in everyday use in any nation state. There is in fact only one original artefact from that period surviving today, a cornerstone that tells the story of the city’s foundation.

People who would like to take the tour have to download the mobile app Layar, and aim their devices’ cameras at the landscape. The application uses geolocation software to superimpose virtual objects at precise GPS coordinates, enabling the public to see the objects integrated into the physical location as if they existed in the real world.

Money from Ararat

Money from Ararat

Then you just take the photo and the object appears as if in real life, with your friends next to it if you like. The Mapping Arrarat website explains everything, and hosts a short video that demonstrates the installation in practice. There are also lots of photos of the various structures that show people interacting with a virtual landscape.

Although the computer graphics aren’t entirely convincing I am sure they will very quickly improve and get to the point of looking absolutely real, very much in the way that games have developed in recent years. And an installation of this type looks like a fantastic educational tool to me. Objects can be placed on the landscape and presumably old photos and plans could be used to re-make places and events. Wouldn’t it be interesting to go the the Great fire of London, or walk through antique Rome and come back with a few shots to show the family?

There’s an app for that

On June the 26th 2007, smartphones didn’t exist. Mobile phones, and computers were two very different things. A day later (27/06/2007) Apple launched the iPhone.

You could argue that there were ‘smartphones’ pre-iPhone, but many in the technology industry view the iPhone as the tipping point and birth-date of the modern smartphone – no inverted commas.

With the launch of the iPhone, came the launch of apps. A few years later along came tablets – and what would a tablet be without apps?

In this post I want to explore some of those apps. Not the apps like Angry Birds, Rayman Jungle Run, Skype and Fruit Ninja though, they are what you expect from applications – games and communication. In this post I am going to explore some of the more innovative uses for apps.

Mirror

Ever desperately needed a mirror just when there are none in sight? Mirror by mmapps mobile, is a free app for Android which turns your phone into a usable mirror! The app even lets you zoom in and out and freeze the mirror, something that no mirror I have ever used does.

The app is available in many different languages, and similar apps are available for iDevices, however mmapps mobile don’t make an ‘i’ version.

Square Wallet

Square Wallet is an application which lets you fully embrace mobile payment. With Square Wallet, you can link your credit card to your phone, and then, in a surprisingly large number of retailers, pay for goods, using your phone! The app also lets you track transactions, so you can keep track of what you are buying.

Square Wallet is available for iDevices with iOS 5.0 or later, and Androids via Google Play.

Inflora Flower App

Interflora smartphone appTen years ago, who would have thought that you could be out and about, and on a device which fits in your hand, and order a bouquet of flowers? Probably not many people!

The flower delivery company Interflora has an app where you can do just that. Naturally its called Interflora, and can be download for free for iDevices – any iPod, iPhone or iPad with iOS 3.0 or later. Interflora is also available to download for Android devices. The app gives you access to a wide range of flowers, information (such as delivery details and a description) and prices; you can even order your gift using the app!

Zite Personalised Magazine

If you like to keep up to date with the latest news, and you like the news your way, then Zite is the perfect app for you.

Zite trawls through your Facebook and Twitter feeds to work out what you like to read. The application then created you your very own personalised magazine to read, and the more you use it, the cleverer it gets, and the more tailored your content become – to a point where it should only be displaying content you really want to read.

Zite is available for free for all iDevices with iOS 6.0 or later, although the developers state that is is specifically designed for the iPhone, as opposed to tablets. Zite is also available on Android.

Flow Powered

Flow Powered - NutellaAmazon have recently released an augmented reality app called Flow Power, which can identify millions of real life products (using your phones camera), and can then tell you more information about them.

The app ‘knows’ thousands of books, games and CDs, and is able to tell you about almost anything, if you scan the barcode.

Be it a novel, or a box of chocolates, the app can tell you how much it costs and what other people think of it – pretty clever huh?

Flow Powered is available for Android via Google Play and iOS 4.2 and more recent iDevices through iTunes.

It seems like there is an app for almost everything these days, be it an app to help you apply make-up, order flowers or tell you the price of a video game. There’s an app for that!

Smartphones really are smart.

My experience of smarter living

This is the conclusion to a series of articles in which I explored Remote Heating Control – a technology of the future. Learn more about this series by reading the introductory article, called stepping into the future of smarter living.

Three months ago, I wrote an article in which I told you how British Gas had approached Technology Bloggers and asked if I would like to have Remote Heating Control technology installed for free, to test the technology as part of their don’t take our word for it (DTOWFI) campaign. Remote Heating Control is a technology of the future, and therefore they wanted reputable bloggers to test it out and give their honest feedback in order to help people (consumers) understand the pros and cons of getting the technology, and just generally what it is like to live with an intelligent (or smart) heating system.

Now my part in the DTOWFI campaign is coming to an end – this is the final article in my series. In this article I am going to summarise my journey with the technology, highlight the advantages and disadvantages and give you my honest feedback as to my experience of Remote Heating Control.

I hope that home-owners (potentially you) will be able to use this series to evaluate whether they feel they would benefit from installing Remote Heating Control.

Installation – The Start Of The Journey

My journey with Remote Heating Control started on Thursday the 16th of August, when a British Gas engineer called Nick came to my house and set up the hardware I would need to run the technology.

British Gas remote heating control

My British Gas smart linked thermostat

First Nick installed a wireless receiver near to my boiler. Then he removed my old thermostat and replaced it with a band new LED display, smart linked thermostat. Finally Nick installed a wireless hub which I plugged into my internet router. These three devices now communicate with each other and between them and the myHome internet portal, determine what my boiler should be doing. Clever huh?

For more info on the installation, check out my article on: how is Remote Heating Control technology installed?

First Impressions

In the next article I discussed what my first impressions of Remote Heating Control were. I explored the myHome online interface, from which I was able to control my heating online. Once I had my login credentials, it was easy to login and navigate around the site.

I was impressed with the amount of data and functions that are available to me. For example, I can see what the temperature has been in my house over the last 24 hours, or the last week, or even month. I am also able to see a weather summary, letting me know what the temperature has been like outside recently, and what to expect in the near future.

At the time of writing article three, I was yet to use the technology on a daily basis, as it was mid-September and still relatively warm.

Setting Up A Heating Schedule

Two weeks later (early October) I published my next article, in which I let you know how I found setting up a schedule for my heating. In summary, it was really easy, I just had to choose what temperatures I wanted my house to be and when, and then drag some sliders accordingly to make a rather complex, but easy to understand, schedule.

Remote Heating Control Schedule - Advanced

My heating schedule

My heating is now designed to fit around my daily variations in lifestyle. I get up later of a weekend, so my heating doesn’t come on until later. I go to bed later on Friday and Saturday, so my heating keeps my house warmer for longer. Instead of me having to adjust my heating to my daily life, my heating now knows what to do and when – meaning little need for interference from me. Check out the article for more on setting up a remote heating schedule.

Daily Changes

From mid-October, I was using my heating on a daily basis, however unlike last year, I wasn’t turning it on and off daily, or controlling it via the thermostat. My heating was doing all the hard work for me, turning itself on just before I woke up/got home, and turning itself off when I went to bed/left the house.

But what happened when my life didn’t fit perfectly around my heating schedule? Say I knew I was going to be home 20 minutes early, would I have to come home to a cold house? No I wouldn’t, thanks to the myHome smartphone app! It was really easy to download and install, and after logging in with my normal username and password, I was able to instantly adjust my heating. Quite literally I could change the temperature to 18°C and in the 10 minutes it took me to get home, my house would have warmed up.

I have found that there is nothing wrong with using my smart linked thermostat (my houses internal thermostat) to control my heating, it works very well in fact, however I just don’t seem to be using it. My heating schedule seems to be regulating things rather well for me, and when I want a change making, a quick alteration on the app, or a text is often much faster and easier.

For more on my views of what the technology is like to use, check out the: using Remote Heating Control on a daily basis article? The article also contains more information about the myHome online portal, what can be found there, what you can control etc.

A Scenario

I recently had the thought, what if I were to go on holiday? My heating is set to a schedule, which I would have to change. I wouldn’t want to have to change the schedule just for my holiday and then reset all the temperatures and time periods when I got home. Well I wouldn’t have to.

All I would need do is login to the myHome app and set my heating to ‘OFF’. It is usually programmed to ‘Auto’ which means stick to the schedule, but were I to set it to ‘OFF’ then it would just lie dormant. When I get back, on my way home, a quick SMS of ‘HEAT AUTO’ or just setting the heating to a specific temperature via smartphone or text message would get my house lovely and warm for my return. It seems that there isn’t much that this technology can’t handle!

Basically if there is going to be a disruption to your ordinary daily life, and you don’t want your heating to be wasting money on unnecessary heating, you can effectively stop the schedule. Likewise if you want your home to be hotter than it is you can override the schedule for that period.

The Money

One of the key factors in the technology for me is the money. I want to be green and save gas, whilst at the same time use the technology to help me save money. So, do I think that Remote Heating Control will save me money?

I haven’t any bills to compare yet, and the weather does vary year on year anyway, so it is hard for me to tell, but from what I have seen so far, my honest answer is yes, I think that the system will save me money.

The way I have programmed my system, it stops my house from getting really cold when I am not there, so it should take less gas to warm it up when I get home. Also the fact that I can instantly change the temperature via the internet, or my phone mean that if I am out of the house, I am still in control, whereas before I couldn’t be. Therefore any mistakes I make – like leaving the heating on when I am going out – I can fix before my boiler burns away my money heating an empty house.

To Conclude

I am really pleased that British Gas asked me to become a part of the DTOWFI campaign, as it has not only given me an insight into the future of smarter living, which I have been able to share with you, but also an amazing system which I now use to control my heating with.

I would personally recommend the technology, as I feel it has the potential to save me a lot of money, whilst helping me limit my environmental impact, at the same time as letting me live slightly more comfortable.

Thank you very much for following the series, I hope it has been interesting and educational. I also hope it has been useful to people who are considering getting a Remote Heating Control system.

I would also like to say thank you for all the comments I have received on the articles during the course of the series. I am more than happy to answer questions and give my opinions, just ask anything you may have either on the relevant post, or below.

My final thank you goes to British Gas for letting me test out a technology of the future.

… and that’s the end of my second series! :-)