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Archive for the 'angle' Category

GeoCam – Additional Features

Yesterday’s review of the Android app GeoCam  concentrated on its main features, measuring/recording position and orientation info. But it has a few cool additional features as well.

flag

In the lower right hand corner of the main display are flag and map icons. Tap on the flag …

Name

… and enter a name for that location; the position is now stored under that name.

flag_list

Go to the Geo tab of the Settings section, and tap on the multi-flag icon to get options for your saved “flags”.

flag_map

“View on Maps” displays the flag markers in a Google Maps view; you also get this by tapping on the Map icon on the main screen.

flag_map_marked

Tap on a flag to get its name.

list

The “View List” option lets you see all your saved flags; a long press on any item in the list brings up the option to delete them. The single flag listing in settings has the same function as the Flag icon on the main screen, to give you the option to record your current position.

flag

Where it gets really cool is that if you point your phone in the general direction of a flag, you’ll see its name and distance on the augmented reality (AR) display (note: you’d normally see the camera view as well, but screenshots can’t capture camera views, so you just see a gray background above).

distance_height

Under the “Geo” tab in settings, there’s also a compass icon; tap on that, and get options to measure distance and height. Unlike apps such as Smart Measure, which require that the object you’re measuring be on a plain, level surface at the same elevation as you, GeoCam uses GPS position data to get distance and height by triangulation. For distance, select the option, center the object in your display, and tap the display center. Then shift over sideways as long a distance as you can, center the object again, and tap the center. GeoCam uses the two GPS positions, and the two orientations of the phone when pointing at the object, to estimate the distance from the midpoint of the measurements to the object by triangulation.

The accuracy will depend strongly on how precisely you center the object, how far apart the two measurements are made, how far away the object is, and what your current GPS error is; the app won’t let you make this measurement if GPS error is larger than 10m. At short distances on level surfaces, Smart Measure is much more accurate, but its accuracy decreases rapidly as the object gets further away, and doesn’t work well at all on uneven surfaces. I tried multiple distance measurements with GeoCam, and with care you can get accuracy to within 5% or less of the actual value for objects about 50 meters or further away.

Once you have a distance to an object, you can use GeoCam’s Height function to roughly measure how tall it is from base to top. Select the Height option and enter the distance to the object in meters. You’ll then be prompted to point first to the base of the object and tap the screen, then the top of the object and tap; from the distance and angle info, GeoCam will calculate height. Didn’t try this too many times, and didn’t have good height info for my test objects in any case, but the values were at least within the ballpark of what I would have expected.

The author keeps adding new features, so it will be tough to keep this review up to date. One promised new feature will be the ability to export the flag positions as a KML file for use in Google Earth. But I’d love to see an import option for KML or GPX waypoints, so that you can load them in for use in the augmented reality mode. The ability to add a flag marker with a long press on the Google Maps view could also be useful.

In any case, given the current price (free), this is a must-have app, and the paid version is definitely worth a look as well.




Orientation-Stamped Imagery And More With GeoCam

Application Name: GeoCam (originally Theodolite)

Description: Augmented reality app that shows compass direction, GPS coordinates, orientation on camera view, plus much more.

Publisher’s website: None

Cost: Free ad-supported version; paid version removes ads, adds video recording and KML export.

Version/date reviewed: v.1.63  /  2-22-11

Phone/OS: Droid X / Android 2.2


Android Market (mobile app only)
Android Market (browser)


Multi-purpose apps can be a mixed blessing; it’s nice to have multiple functions in a single app, but sometimes each individual function is inferior to that in another app dedicated solely to that function. Ulysse Gizmo has been the biggest exception to that issue I’ve reviewed so far, in that all that functions are well-executed. I’d now include GeoCam – it has a lot of functions, some rarely found on other apps, and performs most of them well.

overlay

The primary function of GeoCam is to show you the compass direction you’re pointing, GPS coordinates, and phone orientation/tilt, superimposed as an augmented reality (AR) view on the camera display. You can then take a photograph of that view with the additional data superimposed, to have it for your records. When I saw this in an earlier beta version, the one thing I had hoped for was the option to take a picture without all the superimposed data …

no_overlay

… and the app’s author apparently read my mind, because this feature showed up in a later release.

th_view

Here’s the view on the camera screen, minus the actual camera input (which doesn’t show up on screen captures). The red square is a guide to getting the phone aligned correctly; when the phone has zero tilt angles, that red box will turn green and align with the green box in the center of the display.

In addition to the information/data displays, there are buttons/sliders to access various controls. The blue magnifying glass at upper left …

info

… brings up a data screen with position and orientation data. The icon immediately to its right turns on/off adding the AR data to any photos you take The red slash on the icon signifies that no AR data is added to the photo, and tapping on that icon will remove the red slash and put it into the mode that includes orientation data as an overlay on the photo.’

The camera icon at the upper right takes a photo, but you can also use your phone’s hardware camera button as well. Red icon in the lower-left exits the program, though the Back button seems to work as well. The blue “i” brings up a reasonably-comprehensive in-app help screen. The flag/map buttons at lower right? I’ll save those for tomorrow.

The yellow-highlighted arrow at the right brings up a settings/menu screen if you tap on it; you can also bring this screen up by pressing the phone’s Menu button.

exposure

There are three settings tabs, Cam (for camera settings), Geo (tomorrow) and Set (which lets you modify the color and font used in the AR orientation overlays). Above is Cam, with the Brightness subsetting selected. You can adjust the photo’s exposure by sliding the numbers at left to highlight the desired over/underexposure with the red line. For my Droid X phone, the view in the camera display always seems to be brighter than the final photo taken, so if I adjust the exposure to be lower, the resulting photos are too dark; YMMV with your phone.

tints

The next camera subsetting lets you modify the picture tints for monochrome, sepia, negative, solarize, and various tints. At least for me, this doesn’t really offer any useful functionality.

size

The final camera subsetting supposedly lets you select the photo resolution from all the phone’s supported pixel sizes, but on my Droid X, you only get one choice; the author says he’s working on figuring that one out.

set

In the Set section, you can choose the color of the orientation overlay for best results. Bright sets it to pure white for darker background images, Light (seen above) sets it darker for light images, and Cockpit (seen in the first pictures above) sets it to green. I’ve found that Cockpit is the best all-around choice, as it’s clearly visible under most circumstances.

Other issues: Compass direction is magnetic; I would really hope that the option to set that to true direction is added soon. For now, you have to manually correct for the magnetic declination. And I hope support for all camera photo resolutions will be fixed eventually.

Final thoughts (Part I): If this were all GeoCam did, it would be a must-have app. But it adds some additional AR geographic functionality, plus some measurement capabilities, which I’ll cover tomorrow in Part Two.




Measure Object Lengths With Smart Ruler

Application Name: Smart Ruler

Description: Measure lengths of objects placed on the Android unit’s screen

Publisher’s website: Android Boy

Cost: Free basic version; $0.99 Smart Ruler Pro version adds protractor, level, goniometer; $1.99 Smart Tools version combines apps from pro versions of Smart Measure, Smart Compass and Smart Ruler.

Version/date reviewed: v.1.1.3  /  12-21-10

Phone/OS: Droid X / Android 2.2

sr_qr

Android Market link (mobile app only)
Android Market link (browser)


sr_1

Figure 1: This is a simple app that displays a scale on the screen, measurements increasing left to right; tap or tap/draganywhere on the screen to put a red marker line, and display the distance at that point. You can change units, font sizes and colors from the Settings menu. On my phone, distances were perfectly calibrated, but if you have a problem, you can manually enter a phone calibration distance into the Settings as well.

ruler

Figure 2: Place an object flush against the left side, and tap/drag the red marker to the end of the object to measure its length.

Other issues: If you don’t have a screen protector, you run the risk of scratching the screen with the object. Even with tough Gorilla Glass, there are some objects (like rocks) that can scratch a screen.

Final thoughts:

Not much to say; does what it’s supposed to. The entire Smart line is pretty good (I’ve already reviewed a few others), and the $1.99 Smart Tools package, containing all these Smart measuring apps, is a bargain.