Thursday, May 01, 2008

Microsoft Pro Photo: Geotagging Goes Mainstream

I had to give up on Virgil in 2005 after 4-5 years due to lack of, well, not lack of interest, but lack of will on behalf of HP's product divisions to do anything with it . For a company struggling to differentiate our offerings in digital imaging, particularly digital cameras, you would've thought they'd be all over geotagging and location. Unless you're familiar with Rules of Life in a BigCo, that is :-(.

I've been happy to watch Flickr bring geotagging to the masses, but have remained disappointed at how little they've integrated location into normal Flickr functions like tagging, search and more (and especially disappointed in Y! Trip Planner's inability to exploit it; c'mon, could anything be more obvious?). So at Flickr, location is mostly about pushpins on a map, and you still have to go out of your way to do things like location-based search instead of having them seamlessly integrated into your photo browsing experience.

I'm thrilled to see Microsoft's Pro Photo Tools (Microsoft Pro Photo: Geotagging Goes Mainstream) with a few geotagging features I prototyped in Virgil, and also implementations of things I filed disclosures on. Most notably the idea of using a time-offset controlling slider in combination with a tracklog and geotagged photos to interactively position the photos correctly. One of my disclosures went a bit further to describe what I never showed I could implement: automatically determine the error in your camera's clock setting based on spatial clustering of mapped photos and assumptions about photo-taking behavior vs. movement. The key assumption? How many photos do you take when you are moving? I'll let you figure out the rest :-).

The first version of Virgil was built atop MS MapPoint (800MB desktop version!), then later on their MapPoint web services -- both well before mapping was a thought over at the Googleplex or Y!. MS knew there was value in location, had it locked up really, and fumbled the ball right to Google & Y! by not moving MapPoint forward quickly enough. I'll be glad to see them recover some of the leadership they demonstrated in the past -- but they'll need to stick with it.

Can't wait to download Pro Photo and give it a whirl. Will post a review when I get to it.

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