Archive for August, 2009

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Infinite Photograph

August 18, 2009

Photo mosaics are nothing new, even though they are super cool and great fodder for zooming. Infinite photo mosaics, however, are even better.

infinitePhoto
The Infinite Photograph project by National Geographic starts out as a lovely landscape photograph which allows the user to zoom in on a square area of the photo, transforming that grid neatly into a photo mosaic comprised of pictures submitted to My Shot. Zoom in more to get an idea of what you’re looking at, then select a photo from the grid and start the process all over again. Very slick! (And they’ve even got one especially for pictures of dogs.)

There are limitations, of course: though it feels like it probably is “infinite” in that you can keep clicking into level after level of mosaic, some areas tend to repeat the same few photos over and over to achieve the right color. Once the My Shot photograph database has more to choose from, this will be less of an issue. Additionally, it feels clunky to click inside such a structurally rigid grid in order to zoom — but maybe I’m just spoiled by that buttery-smooth Seadragon zooming experience. (Is that too self-serving?)

Kate Welch

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Spezify

August 10, 2009

One thing I generally like about developing internet technology is the idea of “everything, all the time”. Sometimes this can be a muddy concept that gets in the way of effective communication, but when done well, it can save the user precious visual time they might otherwise spend looking in several places for similar sets of information.

Spezify
Spezify is a Flash-powered service that allows users to search for terms and retrieve results as a visual canvas of assorted media. Photos, videos, articles, and Twitter updates relevant to the search query populate the screen, pannable in all directions. It also retrieves a list of words relevant to your search, so you can easily browse different results (by clicking the word) or additional, more specific results (by clicking the pink “+” next to the word). One-click search refinement sounds pretty great; I like the idea of being able to maximize my laziness and yet still dive deeper and find new content. One down side: you can’t zoom, which is usually our first instinct. 😉 Still, this does give what is surely a milder version of the Clockwork Orange information overload experience, without any of the nasty brainwashing side effects.

Kate Welch

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Cool things in Seadragon: AppleTree

August 4, 2009

Scott Mueller is developing a site, AppleTree, with a hefty premise: map out the family tree of the whole world. That’s a lot of data, so he’s chosen to display it with Seadragon. You can zoom and pan around the whole tree, and click on various elements for further interaction.

appletree

In addition, for any one person you can have a number of photos. He is using Seadragon there as well to display the images, and has built a gallery interface around it.

From a technical standpoint, he is using Seadragon Ajax on the front end with lots of custom touches. On the back end, he periodically rebuilds all the tiles that make up the tree, building slight variations into each tile level, so that for instance, underlines show up only when you’re zoomed in enough to click on a name.

Rather than load all of the (potentially millions of) click targets at once, it sends a query back to the server for every click to see if anything interesting was hit; if so the frontend takes the appropriate action. You can click the underlined name in a node to go to that person’s page on the site. Clicking a diamond of a node brings you to that person’s other spouse. If the diamond has a number in it indicating multiple spouses, a dialog box will pop up asking you which spouse you want to zoom to. Finally clicking an egg brings you to that person’s parents if they aren’t already underneath them.

There are certainly some rough edges here and there, but it’s great to see Seadragon Ajax getting pushed in new directions like this!

Ian Gilman