Tag Archives: microsoft

Photosynth – iPhone App of the Week

Photosynth – iPhone App of the Week

This is a regular feature of the blog looking at various Apps available. Some of the apps will be useful for those involved in learning technologies, others will be useful in improving the way in which you work, whilst a few will be just plain fun! Some will be free, others will cost a little and one or two will be what some will think is quite expensive.

This week’s App is Photosynth.

Photosynth for iOS is the panorama creation and sharing app that lets you capture more of your world. Now you can capture 360° in all directions (up, down, left, and right) to create spectacular images. Using the latest in computer vision techniques, Photosynth makes it easy and fun to create and share interactive panoramas of wherever you are.

Photosynth can share images and interactive panorama experiences to Facebook (with the included free Photosynth.net service). Integration with Bing Maps means millions of people could see your panoramas on maps and in search results for locations you’ve captured.

Free

This new app from Microsoft for iOS devices now allows you to capture photosynth pictures and display them on your iOS device. Think of stitched panoramas that allow for a full 360° view of a location.

Previously, though it was possible to view Photosynth panoramas on iOS devices, you had to go to a Windows only website to create them. That all changes with this app, you can now create Photosynth panoramas using your iPhone.

It’s very simple to use, but takes a little practice to get a really good panorama.

You move the phone around and the software either automatically takes the photographs or prompts you to do so. It then stitches them together.

You can either then share the completed panorama on Facebook, the Photosynth site or on Bing maps. This is for me one of the downsides of the app, as it isn’t possible to create a private “interactive” Photosynth panorama. Yes taking one of the college library is fine, but imagine wanting to take one of a wedding or a group of learners in the classroom. This may not be a panorama you want to share with the world. Any panorama that you do capture is saved to your Camera Roll and thus can be used by other apps or saved to your Mac when you sync. So for “static” panoramas it is possible to keep them private and that’s what I would use for those panoramas I take of people or weddings… So for taking panoramas of places and great views, yes a great app, for panoramas of groups of people, less useful. The reason is that the interactive version just “feels” better.

I should  point out that the first time I used the app I consistently failed to upload any panoramas to any site. I was able to upload the following day so have put that down to server problems on the day I was using it.

I should also point out that the panoramas in this review are the first ones I created. This one was particularly bad, so do practice with the app to get better results.

I have resized the images to 900 pixels wide, but the app does save them as full size images, so the original image was over 4000 pixels wide.

Compared to other panorama apps, and the fact it is free, this is in fact pretty good and does a reasonable job with the iPhone camera in creating panoramas.

Saving Office Files to Moodle

I have to admit I am not sure if this is a logical next step or a backward one….

The following link was tweeted on Twitter about an Office Add-in for Moodle.

Uploading files to Moodle has never been easier.  The Office Add-in for Moodle (OAM) is an add-in for Microsoft Office (versions 2003 and 2007) that allows teachers to open and save Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents to a Moodle website. Today, teachers who use Office and Moodle have to switch back and forth between their web browser and Office applications.  With the OAM, teachers can create, open, edit, and save Moodle documents from within the Office applications.  You no longer need to use your web browser when working with Office documents stored in Moodle.

So what do you need in order to start using the add-in?  OAM does not require anything to be installed on the Moodle server (but note we only tested against Moodle versions 1.X-1.X).  Anyone who is the teacher or owner of a Moodle course can install the add-in and access their documents.  Once installed, the add-in adds two menu items to your File menu (Office 2003) or the Office Button menu: Open from Moodle and Save to Moodle.  In order to browse course files on your Moodle you will need to first tell the add-in the address of your Moodle and the credentials you use to log in.  Once added you can view the list of courses you are enrolled in.  Naturally, students and others can access the content directly from Moodle as they normally would.

This makes it very simple for practitioners to add content to a Moodle course using tools they are familar with. They can  use Office in the usual way, open files…

…and then save those files direct to Moodle.

Now this is great for those staff who upload Office documents to their Moodle courses, now they don’t even need to use a Web Browser…

However I do wonder if this is a forward step in making it easier to use  VLE or a backward step with a focus on content and Office documents rather than open standards and engaging content.

What’s your verdict?

Microsoft's Android App

The BBC News reports on Microsoft’s Android App.

Microsoft has made an application that works with Google’s Android phone.

Called Tag, the free software uses a handset’s camera to turn it into a mobile barcode reader.

You can read more about this on the Microsoft Tag Blog.

Last year in January I wrote a blog post about Microsoft Tag.

Back then I said…

Yes Microsoft have developed their own version of mobile phone barcodes, which require their reader and require you to register in order to create them.

It’s all very typical Microsoft.

I concluded back then

Overall I am not sure about this, not sure if it will catch on or whether we should stick with QR Codes.

Nah, stick with QR Codes.

Since then I think I have seen one instance of a Microsoft Tag.

However having said that I haven’t seen many QR Codes in the wild either…

Question is, do mobile phone barcodes have a future, or is augmented reality the real future of mobile phones?

It is interesting that Microsoft have made an App for Android, though they also have readers for Windows Mobile, J2ME, iPhone, Blackberry and Symbian S60 phones, so maybe it isn’t too much of a surprise.

Windows Phone 7 Series

Lots of news coming out of the Mobile World Congress.

Big news from Microsoft is the Windows Phone 7 Series announcement.

Throwing everything that has gone before, everything is brand new, and from first impressions this appears to be a good move from Microsoft and a response to the iPhone (and possibly Google’s Android too).

No more Start button, no more replicating the Windows desktop on a mobile device. I never thought that replicating the desktop on a mobile device was ever a sustainable idea. Yes those familiar with the desktop interface *may* find it comforting, but as I did with previous versions of Windows Mobile, once you get going with the mobile device the limitations of a desktop interface start to annoy you.

Apple decided with their iPhone (and with the new iPad) to specifically not replicate the OS X desktop interface, but use a new interface, one that works well and for most people is pretty intuitive.

So what else does Windows Phone 7 Series offer. It’s interface has many similarities with the Zune (the Microsoft music player that isn’t available in the UK). It’s been kept very simple, no gloss here, no shine, though transitions are smooth and elegant.

The world hasn’t passed Microsoft by, they have realised that the Xbox is popular with gamers and that social networking is quite a big thing. As a result both these features are embedded into the phone.

So how will this fare in the competitive marketplace for modern smartphones? We’ll have to wait and see…