Myron Kassaraba's weblog about digital photography on the web

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Picasa 2.5 Beta supports geotagging with Google Earth

I installed the new Picasa 2.5 Beta a few days ago to check out the new PicasaWeb online photo sharing capabilities called Picasa Web Albums that Google released as a beta last week (announcement from GoogleBlog). Picasa Web is a very clean and fast (if a bit basic) photo sharing site that when using Picasa 2.5 is effortless to upload to.

Here's my first album from a recent Red Sox game. As quite a few people have already pointed out, the biggest weakness is lack of control over access. Anyone who finds the album can help themselves to the high resolution versions of the photos single click (this is just like public photos uploaded to Flickr but there you have access control and permissions options). It also seems that even albums you choose to make "unlisted" are still being indexed (ZD Net Article). Until they come out with a new version with better access control, I would not post any photos that you consider too personal (or valuable) for anyone with a browser to view and download.

The thing that has me rather excited is hidden under the Tools Menu of the Picasa 2.5 client application and is called GeoTag with Google Earth. Google Earth is one of the most amazing pieces of software I've ever used. With Picasa 2.5 running, you select a folder of images you want to geotag (locate on a map), you select GeoTag with Google Earth. The Google Earth application is launched and you have a Picasa "tray" overlaying the map window. You use Google Earth's search and navigation to find the place you are looking for, put the geotagging cross-hairs on the spot you want and select geotag. This then communicates the x,y coordinates back to Picasa. From here, you can also add the pictures to your MyPlaces in Google Earth.

I've already been playing with Google Earth Plus which allows you to upload waypoints and track data from your GPS. When we go on an outing or hike I turn on my Garmin ForeTrex 201 and hook it to the backpack. At the end of the hike or outing you save the track data. The track can then be loaded into Google Earth (using a PC and a cable). In Google Earth I was able to geotag photos from a Pink Jeep Tour we went on in Sedona, AZ and link them right to the GPS track (there's also a very cool software application called GPS PhotoLink that actually does the linking automatically based on time stamp).

Joe Hughes on his incrementalist blog has done a great job of reviewing the new geotagging features of Picasa and Google Earth as well.

It would be nice to do this right from Picasa Web since it would allow a hot link back to the original photo stored online. Even though Picasa has stored the geocoding information in the files EXIF info, when you upload to Flickr - the geotags are not recognized since Flickr deals with x,y as just another tag (seems like this is not the best way to deal with explicit geotags). But, all in all, if this is a small glimpse of the synergies that we might see in the future from Google's various acquisitions and services then it is very encouraging!

Geotagging and "place coding" of images may be something that today is fun for a few thousand photogeeks but in the future this becomes one of the pillars of how digital photos are made more findable and usable. Photo search by location (plus time) of either your personal collection of photos or public photo collections opens up some very interesting possibilities.

Bravo Google for pushing this forward!

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Riya Changes Focus

Munjal Shah, the CEO and founder of Riya/Ojos has been providing a riveting chronicle on his Blog of the launch of this spring and their recent change of strategy and focus. Riya 2.0 as others like Mike Arringon at TechCrunch are calling this new strategy - is focused on visual search of pictures anywhere on the internet.

I've got to say that I'm a bit disappointed. The automation of capturing metadata with images is a horizontal capability that is a key element to enabling the next generation of digital photography applications and services (and effective photo search in my opinion). Riya had set out a bold vision of creating such an automated system for consumer's photos. Help me initially find and identify the people in MY photos then add even more intelligent tagging based on proximity, text recognition, etc. I still think this is a very worthwhile problem to solve.

The Riya 1.0 launch plan was built around face recognition and that people would share the "profiles" of the people that were identified in their photo collections with others. This may be one of the places where things when wrong. People can be very protective of their personal photos and the annotations/tags that go along with them. Those who participate in communities like Flickr or Facebook obviously have less anxiety about the public nature of their photos or they only post some of their photos to the community. Now, you let the masses do the identification of any content on anywhere on the web. There is a lot of tagging that is already happening on the sites hosting the images (like Flickr and Facebook) that can also be used as part of the search methods.

Visual Search of all of the content on the internet is a BHAG for sure. Google is already in the game. just re-launched an image search that I've found to be quite effective. As Tara Hunt, Riya's recently departed marketing wiz, says in her comments on Riya's change in strategy - in the search game it is relevance that matters. Riya will need to do a better job of delivering more relevant results than their many competitors.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Microsoft Pro Photo Summit

Are you a pro photographer or "industry influential" (in MS's words)? You might want to look into attending the Microsoft Pro Photo Summit. Microsoft has slowly and methodically become a force in digital photography, not just because they control the OS on 90% of the world's PCs but because they've worked at it. Their first digital imaging application other than Paint was PictureIt! which shipped in 1995 and had some very innovative features.

I'm sure one of the hot topics of conversation will be the new alternative to JPEG MS has proposed called Windows Media Photo (CNET News Article). With their recent breakdown in talks with Adobe about support for PDF in Office 2007 (Bloomberg News Story) it will be interesting to see how this plays out. Photoshop is the standard for pro photographers and most advanced amateurs - Adobe has been leading the effort on a Digital Negative Specification trying to unite various flavors of RAW files.