Category Archives: Android

We live in a 3D world

Blog first published on Future Cities Catapult http://futurecities.catapult.org.uk/2017/03/27/blog-live-3d-world/ 

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We live in a multi-dimensional world and experience our environment through our senses. For most people, vision is the dominant way we experience the world. Our sense of orientation within a given context, location, and place is determined by an animated 3D model of the world that our brains construct from the cues around us. Light, materials, textures, and shapes all affect the emotional resonance that we feel within a place.

Without engaging communities and citizens in their own way of understanding world, we risk alienating and disenfranchising people by propagating fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD). Instead we should empower citizens to be able to understand and make sense of development proposals and engage fully in the planning and placemaking process.

Linknode is working to solve this problem by developing a tool to make complex information about development proposals more accessible, relevant and understandable. In the modern world, accessible means mobile, device-centric, and personalised of data for on-demand information.

Accessibility also means being “location aware”.  In a desktop environment, a search engine can return results based on keywords, profiling and history, but search in a mobile context has the ability to enrich result with environmental context. For example, a search for the term “coffee shop” on a mobile device should return information about coffee shops in my immediate vicinity, not only a Wikipedia article about this history of coffee shops.

In order to make complex data about development proposals relevant and accessible, we need to provide contextual understanding. With this in mind, Linknode is creating a tool that enables users to visualise proposals in three-dimensional mixed-reality environment, providing real-time integration with BIM and 3D data on-screen. The benefit of seeing a development in context and in scale is to decrease fear, misunderstanding and doubt while increasing engagement with the planning process and building more ownership with stronger communities.

In the Future of Planning we will adapt our capacity to deliver mobile experiences to consumer applications for the first time.

b4itsbuilt

Future Cities :: Future of Planning

We are delighted to confirm that we have been selected as one of the shortlisted 10 projects in the Future Cities Catapult “Future of Planning” initiative.eventbrite-002-1600x800

 

 

 

 

 

https://smartcitiesworld.net/governance/smes-help-to-overhaul-uk-planning-1473

Our solution B4itsBuilt, mobilises citizen engagement through true visualisation.

This project will extend professional, accurate, real-world AR experiences into the public domain for the first time. It will deliver the template for a consumer solution to allow users to see the visual effect of a planning application. It will be possible to hold up a phone or tablet and see the impact of an application in order to enable informed engagement and increase community influence in decision making.

If you would like to be involved as a data partner, and have a project / development you would like to see – please feel free to get in touch – hello@linknode.co.uk or call us on 0141 559 6170

catapuly

 

 

VentusAR 5.0 Released

We are delighted to announce that this morning we released VentusAR v5.0 into the app stores.

The release includes many new features across Wind, Grid, Solar and Building domains. The new features make the assessment and visualisation process on iPad or Android quicker and more efficient. To highlight a few: we have added new modes for displaying models, the ability to add multiple traces to a capture and introduced an improved, streamlines render output process.

Display Modes for Models

We have added new modes for displaying models – as classic models, in block colour (with no lighting / shadows) and as outlines.

  • The colours help to distinguish building types
  • The outline / transparency helps to show what is behind the development
  • This helps assessment process to understand how development fits in the environment
Block colour mode

Block colour mode

Outline mode

Outline mode

Model mode

Model mode

 

 

 

 

Adding Multiple Traces to Gallery Photographs

You can now add multiple traces to a capture, for example, removing multiple areas of foreground (hedges etc). This produces more realistic visualisations as the model appears to be within the image and not superimposed on top.

IMG_0095

3D model in Wireline Mode

Models shown on top of photograph

Multiple traces areas defined

Final Render – the buildings are shown in the photograph

 

Streamlined Render Process

We have improved the render process to ensure users can select all the options they want
– making output render production process quicker.

IMG_0099 IMG_0102 IMG_0101

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Further information and full details of the other features in VentusAR 5.0 can be found in the release notes for iPad, Android and the Portal

If you have any queries regarding these new features, or you would like to chat further about how VentusAR can help you with your visualisations, please give us a call on 0141 559 6170 or email hello@ventusar.com 

The answer is blowing in the wind

How many times have you gone out to a site visit  – where more than likely – it’s pretty windy!

You have your ring-binder full of wirelines, constraint maps etc. – you’re breaking your back trying to carry it, and your papers are flying about all over the place! Sound familiar? Well, we can help!

With VentusAR, you can download all the PDF’s you need from the portal, and have everything in one place, on your tablet.

It’s pretty simple to do and can save you a a lot of hassle.

How to:

  • From the Portal (portal.ventusar.com)
  • Choose your Project
  • Scroll down to Reference PDF Files
  • Choose the relevant pdf you need and Begin Upload

image 1

 

  • Open VentusAR on your tablet
  • Open the relevant project
  • Click View More Info

Capture

  • The list of all PDFs will be shown

image 2

  • Choose the PDF you want to be able to access and a window will be shown giving you options of how to store the file. Here we Copy to iBooks

image 4And that’s it.

All your files in one handy, small, lightweight and windproof place.

If you would like to learn more about features within VentusAR, please get in touch at hello@ventusar.com or give us a call on 0141 559 6170

Team Spotlight – Stewart Fullerton

Next up for our Team Spotlight is another of our software engineers –  Stewart Fullerton.

Who are you?

I am Stewart Fullerton

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What is your role at Linknode and how long have you been working here?

I’ve been working as a Mobile Development Engineer at Linknode for nearly 4 years. I specialise in building Android and Windows Phone apps as well as developing commercial websites. I work in a team of 5 developers on Linknode’s products like VentusAR, Album Flow, HistoryLens, MyStory and 3DTry.it. I am also responsible in building and maintaining the company’s websites, a few examples are ventusar.com, historylens.co.uk and urbanplanar.com.

What are the technologies that you use?

At Linknode we make the most of cutting edge technology in software development, the piece of software that we use frequently is Xamarin, which allows you to create IOS and Android apps using C#, part of Microsofts .NET Framework. Other technologies that we use are SignalR, WCF, MonoGame, Google Cardboard, MVC, Azure , Jquery and many others.

What is your proudest moment in Linknode?

I think my proudest moment came in 2013 where our main product VentusAR was at its prototype stage and we focused more on consumer apps. I was responsible for the development of Album Flow, an app that allows you to browse your music using a flow of album art. The Windows 8 version was submitted to a contest it was placed in the top 10 apps and we won prizes as a result.

How has Linknode helped you in your career development?

Before I joined Linknode I came from a web background, already fluent in web development, database design etc so I was looking for a job within that industry. I was however very intrigued by developing mobile apps as I felt that smartphones and tablets were the way of the future. 4 years later I have new commercial experience in developing apps and I also get the opportunity to use my old skills in web development.

What do you do when you are not working?

I am a keen music photographer which I have been doing for almost a decade now, I work for many music publications covering concerts from all over Scotland. If I’m not doing that I’m either chilling in the flat or out with friends.

Any random facts you could share with us?

Cows drink milk……… oh wait….

What’s the last joke you recall?

Two fish are in a tank, and one says to the other “How on earth do you drive this thing?

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Assessing buildings onsite

Since 2012, VentusAR has enabled users to conduct onsite visualisations and assessments of onshore wind, solar and grid connections.

Our latest buildings feature will provide users with the ability to assess the developments of buildings and houses. We describe this as assessing the impact of rural developments. (We have another product we are building to allow users to assess urban developments – see UrbanPlanAR.com for details).

Assessment mode using the camera feed

Assessment mode using the camera feed

The development work to enable the visualisation of buildings to be assessed within VentusAR has now commenced. Once this feature is live, it will provide our clients with a few key benefits:

  • Save time during design process – Quickly create a 3D overview of the project and check sight lines and symmetry etc.
  • Save time while onsite – Check how visible a development will be from anywhere – as quickly as pointing the iPad and taking a photo.
  • Engage the public better – Take the tablet to a member of the public to show what the development would look like from their house.
  • Increase the chance of a successful planning application – VentusAR visuals aide better communication with the Planning Authorities.
  • Costs less than the price of 3DSMax and a trained operator.

These benefits will be delivered across the following features:

  • Choose 3D models from a library of buildings (pitched roof house, flat roof house, block of flats, barns).
  • Enter user configurable height, length and depth.
  • View a Fly Through to show the buildings in the context of the landscape.
  • Use My View to show what the development will look like on screen, using the real-time camera as a live background. Either in assessment mode showing outlines, structure and visibility or realistic mode with appropriate texture and detail.
  • Easily share photos and videos of what the development is going to look like.
Wireline Photomontage

Wireline photomontage of a building assessment

This work is due to be completed mid 2016. If you are working on designing or assessing buildings in a rural environment, we would love to hear from you and get your input to help define the product.

Please get in touch by emailing hello@ventusar.com or calling 0141 559 6170. We can come and show you what we are up to, how we can improve your assessment processes and save you money!

Xamarin acquired by Microsoft

Hi, it’s me again – Rufus. It is that time of the year again where I write a technical blog!

You may have read my previous post about the Apple technologies that were announced a few months ago. With the recent announcement that Xamarin has been acquired by Microsoft, I thought it was an appropriate time to share some of my thoughts with the world! This blog post will share a little bit our history with Xamarin technologies – and some of our thoughts on the recent news.

How we got into Xamarin

When Linknode first dipped into the world of mobile applications, it was only natural for us to begin investigating the Windows Phone platform, due to our developers having a rich history with Windows desktop and server based technologies. After creating a number of Windows Phone applications – to gain some experience with intricacies of mobile development we looked into expanding to the other platforms. Driven by our development history, our desire to build Augmented Reality applications and the small size of our development team the following requirements were important to us:

  • Share as much code as much as possible
  • Provide the user with a “Native” experience – Each application should follow the idioms of the device it is running on
  • The ability to write high performance – real time applications
  • Ideally we should be able to reuse our .net/C# skills and code.

The above list of requirements is quite steep – but the first three are easily possible using available tools. However back then, most people thought C# was a Microsoft technology and was not supported by other platforms… or was it? This is where Xamarin comes in!

xamagonXamarin

We started building some simple test applications to try out the Xamarin technologies and were highly impressed with the quality of the output, and also the lack of a steep learning curve.

Xamarin is based on the “Mono” runtime and allows you to write applications in C# for Android, iOS, Windows and Mac. Xamarin allowed us to share a large amount of code and make use of our experience with C# and the general richness of the large “.net” based API’s.

Some other options at the time were not sounding so promising. This is not to say switching to Xamarin was without issues. As an “early bird” user of Xamarin we had some issues such as the primitive nature and stability of the development tools. However we have seen the Xamarin toolchain go through various phrases of re-branding and improvements and it has now emerged as a stable and somewhat mature development platform. The Xamarin developer Ecosystem is full of libraries/components developers can make use of to accelerate development without sacrificing the experience for the end user. Another point of note is that if you are a native iOS/Android developer with a lack of sharp experience as I was – switching to Xamarin is extremely easy. All the API’s and built-in Frameworks you are familiar with are still there and easily accessed from C#.

code-sharing1

 

Acquisition + conclusion

We are happy with the decision to go down the route of building cross platform applications using Xamarin and are pleased with the somewhat expected acquisition. We hope the recent news will enrich the Xamarin development community further, not only by generating more interest for the Xamarin toolchain and growing the size of the community – but also to aid in breathing some new life into the windows mobile space.

Either way I am sure having the great experience of a company such as Microsoft cannot be a bad thing. If any of you are deliberating whether to investigate Xamarin for your own projects I strongly recommend you try it out!

xamarin-joins-microsoft

 

 

Viewing and Purchasing Cumulative Datasets

In our previous blog we introduced the VentusAR cumulative data service and described just how big the dataset is. Now I guess you’re now wondering how you get access to it?

It’s simple, and can save you time, effort and money in your everyday work.

As a VentusAR customer, you already have the tools to allow you to view a summary of the cumulative projects within the National Dataset. Full access to the details and a snapshot update are available at a small cost.

Now, non-VentusAR app customers can also access the data by signing up as a Cumulative Data User (portal-only, no app), please contact us for more information.


So, where to start? At the Portal login as usual, select the project you want to assess the cumulative impact on, and navigate to the ‘Cumulative’ tab.

Here you can:

  • View any ‘Organisational’ Cumulative Projects you have set up within the portal
  • View the Free Summary from the National Dataset
  • Request a Snapshot of the Project Area (remember, a Snapshot is a time-stamped update of the cumulative projects following our search and refresh process)
  • View your Snapshot Data

Free Summary

The free summary shows the number of cumulative projects found within the range set by the user (i.e. 30km), they are organised by project stage.

free_summary

You can change the search range by navigating to Edit Project page and entering the specific radius you require in the Cumulative Search Radius field. This enables different searches to be quickly and easily previewed for summary counts before ordering a Snapshot. The National Database is refreshed every two months.

Requesting a Snapshot

To ensure the data is up-to-date for a particular project, each Snapshot delivery is validated and refreshed individually for all the Cumulative Data within your project radius.

The charges for this service are worked out by the number of projects found within your search area. The Portal will show you how much you will be charged, and youcan review before committing. You must agree to our data usage and pricing terms.

To request the Snapshot, click the Request Snapshot button.

request

Once you have agreed to terms and ordered a Snapshot, instant access is provided to full details within the National Dataset for the project area.  This includes project name and location, turbine information (locations, sizes and models) and planning application number.

(Remember, the national dataset extract may be up to two-months out of date so should not be used for planning submissions).

An up-to-date Snapshot refresh will be provided within 5 – 7 working days of order.  This includes project name and location, turbine information (locations, sizes and models) and planning application number. The snapshot will be delivered directly to your project within the Portal, and will replace the extract from the National Dataset. The Snapshot provides up to date details of nearby projects, so may be used for planning submissions.

Additional metadata is included in the snapshot to show the source source and date retrieved to provide an auditable trail of cumulative data.

Viewing the Cumulative Data within the App

You can view the Free Summary in the app too, The details will be locked however, and will only show the project locations on the map summary.

pin_locked

After you have requested a Snapshot, the Cumulative Data will be available in the app, on the map summary, the Fly Through and on My View. Until the Snapshot is delivered, this will be the latest National Dataset details available.

myview

Exporting Cumulative Data

As well as being viewable in the app, the Snapshot Cumulative Dataset you purchase can also be downloaded for your own use as a .CSV (comma separated, plain text) file.

Upon purchasing the dataset, you agree to only use your data for provision of the VentusAR system and services, or in relation to your use for that project only and not for data resale.

If you have any questions regarding access to our Cumulative Data, please feel free to call us on 0141 559 6170 or email hello@ventusar.com

Your Phone has Attitude!

The axis on a mobile device

The axis on a mobile device

Sorry, this post isn’t about your phone or tablets bad attitude and the way it doesn’t let you do what you want – that’s just working with Android that does that. Instead, this post is about how we at Linknode use the sensors built into your device to understand the direction it is orientated to and how that can be used to do interesting things.

This is a core piece of technology we use within VentusAR. We have spent a lot of time and effort interfacing with the sensors within your devices. This experience and skill goes into several of our mobile apps to provide a more intuitive and useful mobile experience.

In this post, we’ll talk about attitude (or geospatial orientation), sensors and sensor fusion, then show some example code of how to get this attitude information on each of the major platforms. I’ll write a follow up post that will dig more deeply into what sensor fusion is and how we have customised it in VentusAR, to provide a better user experience in our augmented reality applications.

Attitude

To allow the device to present useful information about its surroundings, we need to know the direction the device is looking. This provides key information that you must know to be able to do any proper augmented reality. The direction your device is looking  is called ‘the attitude’ (or geographic orientation) of the device. In essence, this is a value that represents the rotation of the device in real world coordinates.  In mathematics, this rotation value can be represented in a number of ways: a quaternion, a rotation matrix or as three separate values for yaw, pitch and roll. We use a quaternion to represent this rotation because this is smaller, involves simpler maths to work with and avoids known problems with rotation matrices – I’ll cover that in a separate blog post some time.

Sensors

Modern phones and tablets have lots of sensors in them – they allow app developers get an insight into the world around them. In terms of attitude, the ones we are interested in this post are:

  • Compass – gives the direction of magnetic north in 3D space
  • Gyroscope – this measures angular rotation – how far you have rotated the device
  • Accelerometer – measure the direction of gravity in 3D space

There are a couple of limitations of these sensors that are worth knowing about:

  • Digital compasses are very noisy and susceptible to interference so often they jump during real world use. This is down to the characteristics of the sensor – as an app developer, there is not much you can do about it.
  • Gyroscopes tend to drift. There is no real world reference for the gyroscope, it is just measuring rotation. If you did a complete 360°, you would expect the gyroscope to give the same result. Unfortunately it doesn’t, after a while of running it tends to drift.

For these reasons, some very clever people came up with the concept of sensor fusion.

 Sensor Fusion

These sensors can be merged through software into a single “virtual” sensor using a process called Sensor Fusion. Many people have written in-depth articles about what Sensor Fusion is and how it works – but you may need a PhD to understand them. I think it is easiest to see it as a mathematical process that takes input from the three physical sensors (Compass, Gyro and accelerometer) and provides one unified quaternion representing the attitude of the device.

Sensor Fusion block diagram

Sensor Fusion block diagram

To provide a more detailed example, if you were standing in the northern hemisphere with the device perpendicular to the ground facing the north pole (i.e. level on a tripod, facing a heading of 0 degrees), the devices attitude would be:

0 degrees 45 degrees 90 degrees 180 degrees
x  0  0  0  0
y  -1  -0.9238795  – 0.7071068  0
z  0  0  0  0
w  0  0.3826834   0.7071068  -1

How does it help

As I said at the start, the integration to the sensors is at the core of what we do at Linknode. We have several apps that read data from the sensors and provide a real time view across a 3D world. We can pull in a real world terrain model and show what the terrain looks like in a particular direction.

Implementations

Each device manufacture / OS vendor provides their own implementation of sensor fusion within their devices. These are usually good enough for general or gaming purpose – they tend to have an emphasis on speed of response instead of absolute accuracy. Below I have shown some code that allows you to get a quaternion out of the API provided by the OS.

All code below is c# as all the code we write is c#. For more information on running c# on iOS or Android have a look at what Xamarin are up to.

Apple (iOS)

Apple provide the CMMotionManager classes that can be used on iOS.

public class IOSSensorFusionExample
{
  public void Start()
  {
    CMMotionManager _motionManager = new CMMotionManager();
    _motionManager.DeviceMotionUpdateInterval = 1/60; //request 60 updates a second
    _motionManager.StartDeviceMotionUpdates(
      CMAttitudeReferenceFrame.XMagneticNorthZVertical,
      _backgroundQueue,
      delegate (CMDeviceMotion motionData, NSError error)
      {
        CMQuaternion cMQuatAttitude = (CMQuaternion)motionData.Attitude.Quaternion;
        //do something useful with the quaternion here
      });
  }
}

(See Xamarin API for mode details)

Android

Android provides the RotationVector sensor type accessible from their SensorManager class:

public class AndroidSensorFusionExample : Java.Lang.Object, ISensorEventListener
{
  public void Start()
  {
    SensorManager sensorManager = this.GetSystemService(Context.SensorService);
    var defaultRotationVectorSensor = sensorManager.GetDefaultSensor(SensorType.RotationVector);
    sensorManager.RegisterListener(this, defaultRotationVectorSensor, SensorDelay.Game);
  }

  public void OnSensorChanged(SensorEvent e)
  {
    float[] q = new float[4];
    SensorManager.GetQuaternionFromVector(q, e.Value.Values.ToArray());
    Quaternion quaternion = new Quaternion(q[1], q[2], q[3], q[0]);
    //do something useful with the quaternion here
  }
}

(see Xamain Android API and Android Docs for more information)

Windows Phone

Windows Phone provides the motion classes:

Motion sensor = new Microsoft.Devices.Sensors.Motion();
sensor.CurrentValueChanged += (sender, args) =>
{
    var quaternion = args.SensorReading.Attitude.Quaternion;
    //do something useful with the quaternion here
};
sensor.Start();

(see MSDN for more details)

Windows 8

Windows 8 uses the motion class:

var sensor = Windows.Devices.Sensors.OrientationSensor.GetDefault();
sensor.ReadingChanged += (sender, args) =>
{
    var quaternion = args.Reading.Quaternion;
    //do something useful with the quaternion here
};
sensor.ReportInterval = 16;

(see MSDN for more details)

VentusAR 2.1 Released – Assessing Cumulative Impact

We are pleased to announce the release of VentusAR v2.1 for Android, iPad (and associated portal updates).

This is a significant upgrade, allowing cumulative data to be purchased and used from our National Cumulative Dataset.  This dataset contains information sourced from local authorities about the status of wind turbine planning applications.

We recommend updating the new version of VentusAR to take advantage of the new features that have been introduced.

The features you have been waiting for:

For iPad and Android users this release includes many new features including:

  • National Cumulative Dataset: All projects get free summary visuals from the national cumulative dataset. If you purchase snapshot data for a project area, then accurate, up-to-data cumulative information and turbine details will be shown instead
  • Turbine Information Screens: The site and turbine information screens have been updated to make them easier to use
  • International Support: Per-project projection codes now allow local coordinates to be used in different countries

VentusAR 2.1, showing cumulative projects 

For the portal, the new features added include:

  • National Cumulative Dataset: the portal now allows access to the national cumulative dataset. This allows you to obtain accurate, up-to-date cumulative turbine and project information
  • Custom Terrain Importing: custom terrain models can now be imported from within the portal
  • Export to PDF Enhancements: improved metadata display layout and set a custom logo
  • International Support: projects can be set up in Finland and Ireland

Please see our the release notes on VentusAR 2.1 for AndroidiPad or the portal.

You can read more about how you can access cumulative data on our website and view videos here.

We will be explaining more about these new features in future ‘Feature Spotlight’ blogs. Stay tuned for more info.  In the meantime, if you have any queries, please feel free to contact us on 0141 559 6170 or email hello@ventusar.com

We are very proud and excited to be the first in the UK to launch a service of this type, which is the product of more than twelve months concentrated research and development work between ourselves and our data partners.

As always, we like to celebrate with a cake or two. This release deserved something a little more special though. Yum.

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