Aug 31, 2010

Osmosis: Multi-touch systems for... everywhere!

Not long ago I had the opportunity to chat with Stuart McLean, the founder of Osmosis, a company that delivers customized multi-touch systems of hardware and software that support human-centered natural user interaction.   Stuart has many years of experience working in more traditional IT/business roles, and knows from this experience that there is  better way to support  human computer interaction, including interaction between people.

Like many of us in the "NUI" community, Stuart was impressed by the video of Jeff Han's 2006 TED Talk, which demonstrated a variety of awesome multi-touch, multi-user applications on a high-resolution drafting table.  Stuart saw the importance of natural user interfaces and interaction and became involved with the NUI Group, a "global research community focused on the open discovery of natural user interfaces". 

Unlike traditional tech companies, Osmosis is a collaboration between a global network of engineers, designers, and developers who share the "NUI" vision. This collaboration enables the company to provide solutions for clients across a range of countries, cultures, and domains.

Below is a photo-gallery of some of the applications and systems developed by Osmosis:

Multi-touch by Osmosis
As you can see from the gallery photos, Osmosis provides a range of possibilities for their clients and potential clients.  All of the displays are high-definition.  Some are projection-systems, and others are displays with multi-touch sensing technology.  Since the construction is modular, a variety of form factors are available.  High-quality surround and domed sound systems are available.  Applications include information kiosks, point of sale/digital signage, hospitality, presentation and training, education, and audio-visual performance and production.  Osmosis also provides applications that support interaction with tangible objects.

Below are two videos that give a taste of what Osmosis is all about:


Demo Reel from Osmosis on Vimeo.


MT Everywhere from Osmosis on Vimeo.

I can see where some of these applications would be great in K-12 educational settings.  Just look at the joy on the faces of the kids in the Multi-Touch Everywhere video!

(Short video clips of the Osmosis applications in action can be found in the showcase page of the company's website.)

Aug 29, 2010

Propellerheads' Gigantic Outdoor Drum Machine: Another "Playful Interface" and Media Facade - using Phidgets!

I admit I have a passion for interactive media facades and playful outdoor interfaces. I'm geeky like that. Imagine my excitement when I saw the link to Propellerhead's outdoor drum machine that was taken out "in the wild" at night in Stockholm, Sweden, for people to play with!   Thanks, Ben Ullman, for the link!

"No Swede would every think of doing something like this without a permit."

I especially like that the team used Phidgets to create this drum machine.  Phidgets enable you to hook up a mix of digital or analog sensors to a USB interface.  According to a post on Create Digital Music, the interface below was supported by a Phidget 8/8/8 interface hooked to a computer, and a force sensor under the pad. The team used a Phidget Voltage divider to make the scaling and calibration magic happen.   (I had a chance to get my hands on some Phidgets, briefly, when I took Heather Richter Lipford's Ubicomp class at UNC-C a few years ago.  I would love to play with them in-depth in the future.)

Behind the Scenes of Propellerheads' Oversized Drum Machine
Peter Kirn , Create Digital Music, 8/26/10
Propellerhead Reason (Virtual studio rack)

What are Phidgets? Here is the info from the Phidgets website:

"Phidgets are a set of "plug and play" building blocks for low cost USB sensing and control from your PC. All the USB complexity is taken care of by our robust API. Applications can be developed quickly by programmers using their favorite language: C/C++, C#, Cocoa, Delphi, Flash AS3, Flex AS3, Java, LabVIEW, MATLAB, Max/MSP, MRS, Python, REALBasic, Visual Basic.NET, Visual Basic 6.0, Visual Basic for Applications, Visual Basic Script, and Visual C/C++/Borland.NET. Click on Programming if you want to look at Getting Started Guides or Code Samples."

Here is a version of a similar giant sampler in action at a Family Force 5 performance:

Aug 28, 2010

Update & Links about the Interface Culture Exhibition at the 2010 Ars Electronica Festival, via Martin Kaltenbrunner

Here is an update about the the work of students in the Interface Cultures program, which will be presented at the Playful Interface Cultures at the Ars Electronica Festival in Linz, Austria:

"This year‘s presentation by students in the Interface Cultures program showcases newly emerging artistic skill profiles at the nexus of interactive media technology and interface technology. These artists adroitly combine complex disciplines such as communications technology, biosciences, physical computing, interaction design, fashionable technology and information visualization in their test environments and experimental concepts."

via Martin Kaltenbrunner (Interface Culture at the University of art and Industrial Design):
festival page:
vimeo channel:

Interface Culture Lab Blog
Did you know that you can get a Masters degree in Ludic Interfaces?
Ars Electronica 2010 Flickr Site
WIRED: Here comes Ars Electronica 2010 (Bruce Sterling)
Ars Electronica/Futurelab

Aug 27, 2010

iRiS Interaction at the Playful Interface Cultures Exhibition & Ars Electronica Festival (video, short post, and links)

Earlier this week, I shared my wish to attend the Playful Interface Cultures exhibition at the Ars Electronica Festival.   Since I can't get to Linz, Austria to see the festival first hand, I'll share a video of the iRiS project that is part of the exhibition and festival - the link to the video was sent to me by Johannes Schoening, one of the iRiS project team members.  iRiS stands for Immediate Remote Interaction System, and is the outcome of a joint research project of the University of Saarbrucken and the University of Munich, in Germany.

If you happen to be at the festival, you can see the project in action between 10 and 11 P.M on September 5th and September 6th.

iRiS - Immediate Remote Interaction System from awiethoff on Vimeo.

Post: Updated iRiS:  iPhone Remote Interaction System: Paint a Media Facade on your Favorite Building
More Urban Screens and 3D Media Facades
Ars Electronica is located in Linz, Austria.
iRiS Project Website

Aug 24, 2010

I wish I could go to the Playful Interface Cultures exhibition at the Ars Electronica Festival!

Here is part of the description of Playful Interface Cultures:

"This years exhibition of the Interface Cultures Department is showing emerging artistic ability profiles transformed by heterogeneous sets, tools and methods of creation departed from interactive media- and interface technology. To take advantage of disciplines related to communication technology, bioscience, physical computing, interaction design, fashionable technology or information visualisation, artists are focusing on new ways to combine these complex frameworks within test environments and experimental concepts. This origin is supporting group- and project based developments and inspires a flexible and multi-perspective sharing of knowledge and abilities within the process of artistic creation."

Video about the upcoming Ars Electronica Festival:

Interface Culture Lab: playful interactive art
Ars Electronica Festival  Linz, Thursday, September 2-Saturday, September 11
Ars Electronica Linz GmbH
Ars-Electronica-Straße 1
4040 Linz

Tel. 0043.732.7272.55

Fax. 0043.732.7272.2

AGB Ars Electronica Linz GmbH

Aug 21, 2010

Reflections About Interactivity in my Present World

Background:  For those of you who are new to this blog, I work as a school psychologist in a public school district in North Carolina. During the mid 2000's, I took a variety of computer courses, leading up to a decision to work part time while taking graduate courses part-time such as human-computer interaction, games, information visualization, ubiquitous computing, VR, etc. I returned to work full time in 2008, due to the economic downturn.

I continue to maintain my passion for technology that supports natural user interaction, and share my interests on this blog and to a lesser extent, two other blogs.  I initially started blogging because it was a requirement for one of my courses, and found that my blogs served me well as on-line filing cabinets.

Update:  I don't usually post much about my work on this blog, but I have some exciting things to share.

New School Year, New SMARTBoard: I'd like am excited about the upcoming school year because my "home" school, Wolfe, a program that serves mostly teens and young adults up to age 22 who have more severe disabilities (including autism), now has an interactive whiteboard in every classroom.

School started for Wolfe students on July 26th, and three more whiteboards were installed.  One of the new SMARTboards is in the speech and language room, along with a multi-touch SMARTTable the school received last April, one is in the Art/Work Adjustment room, and one is in the room I use with small groups of students, which is used for music one day a week.

Although I have used interactive whiteboards in my work with students for several years, this is the first year that I have had one available to me most of the time in a school. Since most of the teachers received their IWBs over the past year, there is a pressing need to figure out what works, why it works, and how to create useful interactive content that is appropriate for the needs of students who have severe or multiple disabilities. We really can't wait.  

Why is this important to me?

Observations of positive changes:
Students who previously had limited interest in applications on the computer, or a limited attention span for such activities, demonstrate a high degree of interest and engagement with the activities on the IWBs we've tried so far.  Many students who do not attend to learning materials, or only for brief periods of time, actively look at the IWB screen and even interacting with it, and smile.   Some students who rarely-or never- speak sometimes vocalize more often during IWB activities!   Some are making connections between learning materials and what they interact with on the screen, something that simply did not happen previously.  Some students who rarely established eye contact with others or demonstrated joint attention do so during IWB activities, something I discussed in a post on the TechPsych blog.

Technology and my role as a school psychologist:
Designing effective interventions is part of my job as a school psychologist, and mixing interactive whiteboards and interventions is fairly uncharted territory.  I know that there are probably a few other school psychologists, counselors, social workers, and speech/language therapists out there who are wondering what to make of this technology and the students they serve directly, or indirectly through consultation.  There isn't much literature about this topic, so it is difficult to know what is truly "evidence based".

We are in the process of discovery. Within a school that has an IWB in every classroom, serving students with the most complex needs within the school district,  how can I best follow professional school psychology practices(pdf) regarding the provision of direct and indirect services. Some of these expectations are listed below:

"School psychologists promote the development and maintenance of learning environments that support resilience and academic growth, promote high rates of academic engaged time, and reduce negative influences on learning and behavior."

"School psychologists use information and assistive technology resources to enhance students’ cognitive and academic skills."

"School psychologists work with other school personnel to develop, implement, and evaluate effective interventions for increasing the amount of time students are engaged in learning."

"School psychologists facilitate design and delivery of curricula to help students develop effective behaviors, such as self-regulation and self-monitoring, planning/ organization, empathy, and healthy decision-making."

Working towards solutions:
I work closely with my colleague Kelly Cross, a speech and language therapist who serves Wolfe school and two classrooms of students with severe autism at a "regular" elementary school. Kelly also serves as the assistive technology and augmentative communication consultant for our school district.  She's used interactive applications and web resources for many years along with more traditional "hands-on" materials,  but like me, has had limited access to IWB's until recently.  She now has a SMARTboard in her room, along with the portable multi-touch SMARTTable Wolfe received last April.  We work with many of the same students, so with the influx of IWBs in our school, we've stepped up our collaboration.

One of Kelly's challenges is to figure out ways for teachers to integrate assistive technology and/or augmentative communication systems into their work with students during activities that involve interactive whiteboards.   Most of the research the area of assistive technology/aug com focuses on the use of technology to access applications as they are displayed on laptops or computer monitors, or factors related to the use of individual communication devices. The vSked project, led by Dr. Gillian Hayes at the University of California at Irvine, is on the right track in that it incorporates the use of a large interactive display that was used with students with autism, along with smaller hand-held communication systems, which I've discussed in a previous post.

vSked_1 575x320
vSKED in action

Workshop Presentation
This past week, Kelly and I presented at a workshop held in the Arlington VA school district that focused on the use of interactive whiteboards and related applications and web resources with students with special needs.  We shared some of the exciting things we've noticed with our students and shared "before and after" examples.  Included in the presentation were some of the video clips I quickly put together during the first days of school that had an impressive positive impact with students when they were used during interactive whiteboard activities. (Some of these video clips can be found in a previous post: Video clips that help students with autism learn and feel calm at the same time!)

During the workshop, we discussed a few guiding principals, such as the "least dangerous assumption" and the concept of Universal Design for Learning.   We also provided a sampling of resources previously used on the "small screen" appear to powerful when used with students interacting on the larger whiteboard screens.  Below are a few of the resources we shared:

Clicker5 is an application to support reading and writing that provides a natural voice output, and child-friendly word processor. It works well on interactive whitboards It can incorporate several communication symbol systems. It is a good tool for informal assessment with students with communication and other related needs.

Sensory World provides an intuitive navigation system for students to use as they explore various areas of a house and engage in learning and related activities. The site map for all of the areas of the house, as well as the activities, is graphical.

We shared resources from the National Gallery of Art's Kids Zone, a great website that offers plenty of interactive content:

Teachers who want a limited browsing environment for their students the Zac Browser is great for use on IWBs and the new large all-in-one touch screen displays:
Zac Browser

Another website that is good for visual-based browsing is Symbol World:

"The intention is that symbol readers, teachers and carers will contribute, and we are delighted at the number of contributors that have already sent us their work"

We shared a recent find, Taptu rthat can be used on an IWB.  Although Taptu focuses on the mobile touchable web, accessed through smartphones with internet access, it provides links to a wide range of websites designed with intuitive touch interaction in mind, perfect for students with special needs.  In many cases, Taptu web navigation resources work fine on the larger screen of the IWB.  The advantage is that a icon/visual based touch navigation system supports students who can't type and also those who have very limited reading skills.

Sports Navigation for Taptu

Below is a slideshow about the touchable web:
Taptu: Virtual Roundtable

Update: SMARTTable
At Wolfe, we'd like to create a conversation wheel with related activities for the SMARTTable that co-ordinate with SMARTBoard activities.  We'll probably experiment with the conversation wheel concept on the SMARTboard first.

One thing we've learned over the past few months is that it is bit more complicated to create content and activities for the SMARTTable than for the SMARTBoard notebook or Promethean flipchart.   We hope to have it customized to support scaffolded, customized classroom activities for students with special needs, but it might take more time than we had anticipated.  The school's immediate need is for touchable interactive content for all of the classroom IWB's, suitable for our students.

Programming for the SMARTTable, for those who have 64-bit computers, requires Windows 7, Visual Studio 2008, and Expression Blend 3.   My HP Touchsmart, my home computer, is 64 bit, but runs Vista.  My school-issued laptop runs Windows XP and is also 64-bit.  To upgrade it, I will have to send it to the tech department for several weeks.   It will be slow-going, since I have to plan for my day-to-day activities and evaluations with students first.

Possible SMARTTable Solutions:
I'm hoping that some students from UNC-Charlotte might want to try their hand at multi-touch programming and help us out!  We'd welcome volunteers from other universities as well.   Wolfe's principal, Mary Jo Breckenridge, is very supportive of the use of innovative technologies with students with special needs, and would figure out a way to make a collaboration happen.

Upcoming Interactive Multimedia Technology Posts
I have about 6 posts in draft form about interesting interactive technologies, research, people, and companies involved with multi-touch, interactive multimedia, and natural user interface/interaction applications. I'll get them up as soon as possible.

One post is about 3M Touch Systems. Another is about an interesting multi-touch start-up company, Osmosis.  I revisited Ballantyne Village to update the use of interactive touch screen technology, something I discussed in detail, along with photos and video clips, in a 2008 post, Technology Supported Shopping and Entertainment User Experience at Ballantyne Village:  "A" for concept, "D" for touch-screen usability".   I got some inside scoop about the rationale behind the changes at the upscale center from a seasoned owner of a high-end audio-visual store I interviewed about 3D TV.   I have some interesting information about current research in "glasses-less" 3D displays. Sharp will be coming out with a 3D cell-phone camera AND glasses-less cell-phone display in the not-to-distant future.  

I'm preparing for posts that highlight a few of my favorite blogs. Until then, take a look at the recent posts on Tracy Boyer's Innovative Interactivity blog, and also InteractiveTV Today.

"The AAC-RERC conducts a comprehensive program of research, development, training, and dissemination activities that address the NIDRR priorities and seek to improve technologies for individuals who rely on augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) technologies. The mission of the AAC-RERC is to assist people who rely on augmentative and alternative communication to achieve their goals by advancing and promoting AAC technologies and supporting the individuals who use, manufacture, and recommend them."

Janet Light, Kathy Drager, Penn State University

Jeff Higginbotham's Bibliography:  Viewing AAC Through Authentic Social Interactions (pdf)

ProLoquo2Go (iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad communication system)

Also posted on the TechPsych blog

Aug 16, 2010

"The World Is Open: How Web Technology is Revolutionizing Education", by Curtis J. Bonk

I couldn't resist posting all of the book-study resources for Curtis J. Bonk's book, "The World Is Open: How Web Technology is Revolutionizing Education.".

The book is the center of a required book-study for the principals in my school district.  Even if you are not an educator, you'll find the links related to each chapter intriguing.

Here is the link to my post:

"The World Is Open" Book Study Resources (Megalist)- Required reading for principals in my school district!

The book's website has more information.

Aug 13, 2010

Bill Buxton's Presentation Video: "A Little Tale about Touch" (Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference 2010)

I am always inspired by Bill Buxton's words of wisdom.  If you haven't heard of him, know that he's been around for a very long time, coming to the world of computer science and IT through his passion for music. According to his on-line biography, "Bill Buxton is a relentless advocate for innovation, design, and - especially - the appropriate consideration of human values, capacity, and culture in the conception, implementation, and use of new products and technologies. This is reflected in his research, teaching, talks, and writing - including his column on design and innovation for, and his 2007 book, Sketching User Experiences."

A Little Tale about Touch "It's about the physical and the social context where it is happening" (Bill Buxton)
Get Microsoft Silverlight

“The only true voyage of discovery is not to go to new places, but to see the world through different eyes”.  - Bill Buxton, quoting Proust (1913, Remembrance of Things Past)

Bill Buxton: After the Show (Interviewed by Caroline Goles, Worldwide Partner Group Business Manager)
Get Microsoft Silverlight

Bill Buxton's Website
Buxton, William. (1994) The three mirrors of interaction: a holistic approach to user interfaces. In L.W. MacDonald & J. Vince (Eds.) Interacting with virtual environments. New York: Wiley.

Here is a quote from the above reference:

"The thesis of this chapter is that we should consider technology in terms of the fidelity with which it reflects human capabilities on three levels:

* physical: how we are built and what motor/sensory skills we possess;

* cognitive: how we think, learn, solve problems and what cognitive skills we possess;

* social: how we relate to our social milieu, including group structure and dynamics, power, politics, and what social skills we possess.

Our metaphor is one of three separate mirrors, each reflecting one of these levels. In order to be judged acceptable, designs must provide an acceptable degree of fidelity in how they reflect each of these three aspects of human makeup and activity. The benefit is in how the model can provide a simple but valuable test that can be used during the design process. We now look at each of these mirrors in turn."

Aug 10, 2010

Wendy Keay-Bright's ReacTickles revised for use on the multi-touch SMARTTable!

Wendy Keay-Bright works at the Cardiff School of Art and Design in the UK, and is part of the Sensory Design Research Group.   She has focused much of her research on interactive technologies and participatory design, working children with autism, educators, and others to create applications such as ReacTickles and ReactColors, originally designed for use on interactive whiteboards.  These applications have been found to be especially effective with young people who have autism spectrum disorders. ReacTickles has been updated for use on the SMARTTable, a multi-touch, multi-user interactive table that supports collaboration, depicted in the video clips below:

(Posted on agent4changenet's YouTube channel.)

Tabletop ReacTickles looks like a SMART move
MerlinJohnOnline 4/25/10

Note: Wendy Keay-Bright is involved with the ESRC Technology Enhanced Learning ECHOES project, which stands for "Improving Children's Social Interaction through Exploratory Learning in a Multimodal Environment."

Aug 5, 2010

Will the iPad rejuvenate journalism and sustain the growth of "slow media"? -Video via ZDNet

The Summit at Stanford 2010 wrapped up at the end of July. Those who had the $1995.00 to attend were treated to two and 1/2 days of highlights of "significant economic, political and commercial trends affecting the global technology industries".

The videoclip below, taken during the Stanford Summit, is an excerpt of a discussion of a panel about journalism in the era of the iPad - Michael Arrington, founder of TechCrunch, Tony Perkins, moderator of the panel and founder of AlwaysOn, Quentin Hardy of Forbes, and Robert Scoble of Scobelizer theorize that longer-forms of journalism might have a new life on the iPad, based on its beautiful, touchable design.

Goodbye, "McDonald News"?

Here are 5 examples of the 100 movers and shakers who presented at the Stanford Summit, as posted on the conference website:
Matt Grob
Matt Grob
Sr. VP, Engineering and Head of Corporate Research and Development, Qualcomm
Jaron Lanier
Jaron Lanier
Author, You Are Not a Gadget, 2010 Time Magazine top 100 most influential people list,
Phil McKinney
Phil McKinney
Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, Personal Systems Group, Hewlett-Packard Company
Barry Silbert
Dwight Badger
Dwight Badger
CEO, Advanced Equities

Qualcomm's Matt Grob on Augmented Reality
Andrew Bellay, AlwaysOn, 7/28/10

Aug 3, 2010

Settlers of Catan Game by Vectorform Game Studio, on a Microsoft Surface

Vectorform worked with Catan to develop the digital version of the Settlers of Catan for Microsoft's Surface:

The game supports a range of gestures and interactions that are similar to the real game, but without the need to keep up with all of the parts and pieces!

A New Frontier for the Settlers of Catan
Vectorform to Launch "The Settlers of Catan" for Microsoft Surface"
Lindsay Ruthven, Vectorform Blog 8/2/10
• Full multi-touch from the Microsoft Surface allows all players to interact with their elements of the board at once.
• A digital playing surface breathes new life into the Catan experience through graphics and animations.
• “State-free-trade” allow players to swap cards without entering modes or pressing buttons, keeping the experience as pure as possible.
• Customized art unifies the multi-touch interface with Mayfair’s 4th Edition release of The Settlers of Catan to create a seamless play experience.
• Integration with real-world objects to maintain the original Catan board game feel."

Settlers of Catan

Back to school: Video clips that help students with autism learn and feel calm at the same time!

One of the schools I serve as a school psychologist has a number of students with severe autism.  Over the past year or so, each classroom was outfitted with a new interactive white board (IWB). We've found that multimedia content displayed on these large screens is much more engaging than what is viewed on computers with much smaller displays.
The exciting news is that some of the students who have minimal interest in computers pay a great deal of attention to activities on the IWBs.  Students who have self-stimulatory or repetitive behaviors that interfere with their ability to engage in traditional activities don't seem to exhibit these patterns nearly as much when the focus is on the IWB.   In my opinion, IWBs are great tools for reaching and teaching young people who have autism spectrum disorders!

I'm in the process of creating a variety of short video clips that teachers can embed in learning activities that also provide a way for students to reduce their levels of anxiety, agitation, and/or repetitive behaviors.

The following videos are my first experiments, and are not as polished as I'd like.  They are best viewed on a large-screen display or IWB, set to high definition.  Although various students have viewed these videos a few times this week, they were a great hit. In some cases, we found it useful to loop the video, especially for students who require repetition of content.

The videos were shot using a small hand-held Panasonic HD camcorder, and quickly edited in iMovie. The music was either taken from the iMovie music library or created using riffs in Garage Band, an Apple iLife product.


Lily Pond and Music

In this video, I used a few subtitles to direct the viewer to points of interest, such as the little grasshopper hiding in the pink lily and a dragonfly, which appears near the end of the video.

Butterflies and Flowers Set to Music

I set this version to piano music for a student who listens to piano music as a coping strategy. I plan to create another version with other genres of music. This particular score was created with piano riffs from Garage Band.

Up Close at the Charleston Aquarium - with relaxing music

Even the most inattentive students paid maximum to this video when it was looped!  I think they liked the variety of sea life, especially the turtles.  Tip:  If you plan to capture video at an aquarium, plan to visit at a time where there are few visitors!

I can't wait to take my video camera to the Atlanta aquarium.

Minnows and Music

The minnows swimming around in the murky green tank are a little boring, but things get slightly more exciting when the bait-shop owner feeds them. The music makes up for what the video lacks. The students didn't mind at all.

Jellyfish at the Discovery Place Aquarium, Charlotte, NC - with music

I'd like to visit Discovery Place at a less-crowded time and re-capture the jellyfish in action from a better vantage point.
I'd like to see if there are similar videos set to music by William Orbit.
I found this video on YouTube of William Orbit's "Sea Green", set to video created by a fan:

Below is "Surfin", great for chilling - needs some video...

(Cross-posted on the TechPsych blog)

Aug 2, 2010

"Cute Doggies" Photo-Globe Mash-up using Google Earth and a Flickr Set (How-to)

The above photo is a screen shot of photos of just about every dog I know, and some that happened to cross my path. In this post, I'll share some information about how to create a photo-globe in Google Earth.  I'll post a "how-to" video in the future.

The first step is to make sure you have lots of pictures related to your theme uploaded to a site such as Flickr.  (You can also create a photo-globe using pictures from your computer's hard drive.)

To get the pictures into Google Earth, I used the Image Overlay feature, and in the "link" textbox, I entered the image URL for each picture that I'd previously loaded as a set in Flickr.

To do prepare for this, make sure you go to "view" tab on the upper left-hand section of your screen, and make sure that "toolbar" is checked. Also make sure that "Grid" is selection, as this will help make it easier to arrange and align your pictures.  You can turn off this feature later. Near the top of the screen, click on the Image Overlay icon. (I've highlighted it in the picture.)

You'll have to enter the URL of the image you'd like to add to the globe in the "Link" textbox, which I've highlighted in the above picture.  In this case, I've used a link to one of my pictures in a Flickr set I created for this project.

One thing to keep in mind is that the picture will take up a much larger space than you might prefer, so you'll have to adjust the size using the green markers:

Positioning the Overlay in the Viewer
The following directions are from the "Positioning the Imagery in the Viewer" section in the help section:

  1. Use the center cross-hair marker to slide the entire overlay on the globe and position it from the center. (Tip: do this first.)
  2. Use the triangle marker to rotate the image for better placement.
  3. Use any of the corner cross-hair markers to stretch or skew the selected corner. If you press the Shift key when selecting this marker, the image is scaled from the center.
  4. Use any of the four side anchors to stretch the image in or out of from the selected side. If you press the Shift key when doing this, the image is scaled from the center.

TIP:  Try positioning the center of the image as a reference point first, and then use the Shift key in combination with one of the anchors to scale the image for best positioning.

In Flickr,  to get the image URL, go to the "share this" tab above the picture you'd like to put on the globe. You need to select the one that says "Grab the HTML", as shown below:

Select ONLY the code that comes after "src=" and before "width".

Then repeat. You can add place-marks that contain URLs that link to additional information about the subject of a picture, such as blog posts with embedded videos and/or text related to a picture, and so forth.

The process of building a photo-globe in Google Earth is a bit tedious.  If someone has a short-cut to share, please let me know!

TAG GALAXY - A "shortcut":
If you have a burning desire to create a quick photo-globe using random pictures, you see what the Tag Galaxy has to offer.  Enter "dogs" or whatever theme you want for your photo-globe, and in an instant, it will be created from publicly available pictures from Flickr. The application uses the Flickr API.

Here is an example of a "Dog" Tag Galaxy:
You can spin the Tag Galaxy globe by using a mouse, or if you have a touch screen computer or a SMARTBoard, with your fingers.

Here is the slideshow from the pictures selected for the photo-globe:

Why is this important to me?
The students at one of my schools started back last week, due to the school's "year-round" schedule. The students in this program have multiple special needs, including severe autism, and most learn best through visual and multimedia representations of information. I devote some of my spare time creating interactive content for the students, and I thought this might work out nicely.

To address the student's special learning needs, a number of new SMARTBoards were recently installed at the school, and now every classroom has an interactive whiteboard, including the room I usually use with students. We also have a few Dell Studio One All-in-One touch screen computers and a multi-touch SMARTTable.  Interactive multimedia content works nicely on these screens! (I'm planning on making a "how-to" video when I get the chance.)

Google Earth
Programmable Web (My hunch is that this site might provide some information about shortcuts for creating a photo-globe in Google Earth.)

New Hollywood Hard Rock Cafe Sparkles with Interactive Multi-touch Wall and Microsoft Surface Booths!

I came across a blogpost entitled "Tourist in my own town". In this post, the author shares is positive experience of his visit to the new Hard Rock Cafe, located on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.  I loved his comment:  "A whole wall of Microsoft software running and not a single BSOD!"  In addition to the interactive wall, visitors have the chance to play with the content on Microsoft's interactive Surface tables. Below is a picture from the post from the Sure Beats Work blog:

-Sure Beats Work

A recent post on the Hard Rock Cafe blog provides more information about the interactive technologies at the Hollywood site: "Hard Rock International Rocks Its Way to Hollywood Boulevard":

New Look ~ New Vibe ~ New Memorabilia Technology
"In the latest example of Hard Rock’s concept-driven design evolution, the Hollywood Boulevard cafe was developed to integrate technology, creating a new look and vibe that will rock Hollywood. Hard Rock Cafe Hollywood on Hollywood Boulevard showcases new and unique interactive experiences for guests – from an 18’ x 4’ Rock Wall™ to touch screens in booths throughout the cafe to Microsoft Surface™, each featuring innovative multi-touch technology that enables fans to explore the world’s greatest rock ‘n’ roll memorabilia collection and virtually tour all of Hard Rock’s venues worldwide."

"In addition to the cutting-edge multimedia memorabilia experience, hundreds of items from Hard Rock’s iconic collection adorn the walls of Hard Rock Cafe Hollywood on Hollywood Boulevard, including items from many of the world’s most beloved and recognizable musicians, as well as contemporary artists with local ties. Key memorabilia items are now on display, from 
Jimi Hendrix’s purple crushed velvet hat; to Janis Joplin’s love letter to then boyfriend Peter LeBlanc; Jim Morrison’s leather pants and handwritten lyrics to “L.A. Woman”; to Katy Perry’s sparkly dress and Fergie’s tour outfit worn while on tour with the Black Eyed Peas."

The memorabilia wall was created for the Hard Rock Cafe by Obscura Digital, a company that is involved in off-the-desktop ubiquitous computing, including ambient technologies that include natural-user interfaces and interaction. Obscura Digital aims to "make data pervasive and accessible in almost any situation, allowing virtually any surface to be turned into a portal to the Internet".  

The Memorabilia Wall has been installed in several Hard Rock Cafes around the world- additional pictures can be found on the Obscura Digital website.The first installation of the wall was at the Hard Rock Cafe in Las Vegas in 2009. - Below is the interaction of the wall at the Las Vegas Hard Rock Cafe:

-Obscura Digital

The following video, set to Beck's "Elevator Music", provides a great demonstration of the Hard Rock Cafe Memorabilia application as experienced on the Surface:

Hard Rock memorabilia app for Microsoft Surface (extended) from Duncan/Channon on Vimeo.
(The music in the video "Elevator Music, by Beck.)

My megapost about the Hard Rock Cafe interactive wall and website:
Interactive Memorabilia at the Hard Rock Cafe: 
Microsoft's Multi-touch Rock Wall, Companion Surface Installations, and Awesome Touch-Responsive Interactive Memorabilia Website

Below is a screenshot of the main portal of the Hard Rock Cafe interactive memorabilia website, which compliments the "real" wall. You can interact with all 1532 items and learn more about the history behind the various artists.  It is fun to play with on a touch-screen display!

Duncan Channon: Sin City Memorabilia Interfaces

Obscura Digital
Obscura Digital's Cuelight, and interactive pool table at the SOHO Esquire House:

Cuelight from Obscura Digital on Vimeo.
"Featured at the Esquire House's "Ultimate Bachelor Pad" in NYC, the one-of-a kind Obscura CueLight projection system turns a game of pool into an amazing interactive art display"