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Where 2.0 – Day 1 Improving Map Infrastructures And Mobile Devices

Where 2.0 is a unique gathering that mixes together the usual geo-suspects with a potent mix of Silicon Valley strivers and curious IT folks. This year attendance is back up to just shy of 1000 and the venues is packed full. There is nothing like the psychology of a full room to get people buzzing.

And yet, this year, so far the big players have not been making any major announcements, just re-viewing the gains made so far. So Nokia briefly reviewed their Ovi platform, which they launched last year; Microsoft talked about their upgraded Bing site and showed how they working on fusing their existing Photosynth and Seadragon technologies into the mapping experience; Google reviewed their various services.

What’s going on?

It’s too early to make a definitive wrap-up statement, since there are a full day of plenary talks still to come, including a return of Google to the main stage. But it is possible that we are in a technological pause, while we wait for hardware capabilities and data to catch up to our grand designs, and it seems clear the next big ship will be in augmented reality (AR).

In some ways, the always-on news cycle of the internet has worked to defuse the technical excitement we always hope for. Microsoft’s Blaise Agüera y Arcas gave a nice talk about their improving map infrastructures, which would have been very impressive if we were seeing it for the first times — but many attendees, including me, had already seen a longer version of the talk online via the TED video archives.

When Where 2.0 first ran in 2005, the existing technology of web mapping was impressive and there were many excited talks about what could be done with it, but everyone was already looking towards the next frontier, which was mobile devices; but the mobile hardware wasn’t there yet, the devices weren’t smart enough or GPS enabled. With the rise of the GPS-enabled smart phone, mobile is “here”, but our eyes have already shifted to the next goal, which is augmented reality and again we await appropriate technology: light-weight, non-intrusive, computationally capable, spectacles. Soon, everyone will be wearing glasses, and loving it.

There’s an AR panel tomorrow with our own Sophia Parafina, and there is also some talk that we may seen a Google AR talk or announcement at the plenary. We shall see.