First a caveat – I try not to review or discuss specific gadgets here at RandomConnections unless I actually have the device in hand and have played with it, either having purchased it for myself, for work, or having swiped it from a friend for a test run. I don’t like to speculate on a device’s capabilities unless I’ve seen them myself. Also, especially this close to Christmas a favorable review might be taken as a “wish list”, and that’s not necessarily the case. So, I tend to stick with what I’ve actually seen.
Today I’m going to break with that policy somewhat. My intent was to discuss a capability rather than a specific device or brand, but it turns out that only one brand has this feature (so far.) I’m talking about photo navigation, the ability to navigate to a geotagged photo via GPS as an inherent capability of the device.
Some background – recently I was contacted by a visitor to the site seeking more information on geotagging audio. The project he’s working on sounds fascinating. He would like to develop tours with information that would be triggered by location. For example, a visitor would have some sort of GPS-enabled media player. When the visitor comes within range of a specific coordinate, images, audio, or video related to that location would appear on the device.
This all sounds pretty cool and feasible. However, there are some obstacles. First, there is no inherent industry standard method for geotagging audio or video. You can, however, write location data into the EXIF metadata for photographs. You could create something with these capabilities, but you would need to cross-reference the media files with an external database that contains the locaton information. About the only way to do that would be with a laptop attached to an external GPS such as the Delorme Earthmate. While these capabilities could easily be programmed into a single portable device, to my knowledge such a device is not currently available on the market. There are many GPS units on the market that can serve as media players, but there is not location data recorded for those files.
Shortly after this e-mail discussion and with GPS capabilities on my mind, I was in Walmart and I walked past the GPS units. I saw that most of the Garmin units on sale featured “photo navigation.” Like many other brands, the Garmin GPS systems can act like a picture viewer. However, they take this one step further by allowing to you set the image as a Point of Interest (POI) if the image has been geotagged using EXIF data. This allows users to navigate via GPS to the location where the picture was taken. Garmin has also provided a direct link to the Google Panoramio site so that you can download geotagged images of your destination.
I’m not sure how useful this feature really is, but the coolness factor is pretty high. From a photography standpoint, I’d love to be able to download geotagged images that I like from Flickr or Panoramio and go to those locations. Both the locations and the photos themselves give me inspiration for my own photos, as well as teaching me a little about how the photographer may have taken the image.
I said previously that Garmin is the only brand that has this feature. However, in the course of writing this post I discovered that I was wrong. Both Mio and the New Zealand company NavMan have GPS units that include photo navigation similar to the Garmin units. The Mio unit is essentially a smart photo with built-in camera and GPS. The NavMan units are dedicated GPS units, but they also have a basic camera built into them. These units are only available in Europe, so that still leaves Garmin as the only real option for photo navigation in US markets. Below is a promotional YouTube video from NavMan describing the NavPix capabilities, but the concept can apply equally to the Garmin system…
Photo navigation capabilities are moving in the right direction (OK, bad joke.) However, I would love to see a generic device that would do what my recent visitor suggested – play media as you reached a location. If it were generic enough, users could download their own tours for a variety of locations. I could see loads of marketing potential here. In addition to general sight-seeing, you could also use it for house-hunting, etc.
I’d also love to see a device that would also allow you to create your own tours on the fly. Include a simple memo record function with built-in microphone that would allow you to geotag the audio file as you record it. Of course, such a device would allow you to export the data so that you could share it with other. With capabilities such as this, you could create a whole new level of GPS and treasure-hunt related games. Geocaching would start to look like Pong compared to what would be possible with such a device. I guess I need to get busy and invent it, or just wait patiently until someone else puts one together. I don’t think it will be long, though.
6 thoughts on “Photo Navigation”
I recently purchased a nuvi 855 and all-in-all I am dissatisfied with Garmin’s product. I explored the Photo Navigation capability and found out they had proprioratized the capability.
Although the system can be hacked [which I did], you’re left with a rather primitive and rigid display architecture which is tied to Panoramio. When photos are displayed, they force you to see the logo “Panoramio” and text such as “Author”. There is no hyperlinking capability, no album capability. Data is stored as XML files but with very limited content; Links to jpeg images, text for display, lat and lon.
Worse, the software Garmin designers did a poor job of memory management. I was easily able to overload the memory resources of my nuvi 855 with no warning beyond bizarre locking up behavior of the device.
Sadly, after 1 day of using my device, it’s broken. I attempted to reset the device to no avail. I attempted to download the device to no avail. I turn it on, it wakes up like it was fresh out of the box [no user data] and after a half a dozen random menu presses it hangs.
I’m was looking forward to developing an application on it. But, sadly, it’s another piece of hi-tech junk that I’ll end up returning to Frye’s.
P.S. If you do buy a Garmin, make sure you can return it.
UPDATE: Garmin issued a fix and the Garmin came back to life. Sadly, the nuvi still is tied at the hip with having to display Panoramio pictures. Garmin has apparently gone out of their way to produce a product destined to be inflexible and worthless.
well i find my germin to be a beauty. Better than my old tomtom and navman units.
I think it a little unfair to bag them after someone mucks around hacking the software and trying who knows what else?
Soz, Thats “garmin” of course not germin.
I’ve had nothing but great service from all the Garmin products I’ve had. Same for the Magellan GPS units I’ve bought.
Your statement about Garmin’s Photo Navigation that “they take this one step further by allowing to you set the image as a Point of Interest (POI) if the image has been geotagged using EXIF data” is false. Garmin’s Photo Navigation does not currently use location coordinates in the .jpg image EXIF data, but instead references the image file name to retrieve the coordinates stored in a corresponding named .gpx file where the coordinates were stored when the image was downloaded from the Garmin Connect web site. The site retrieves a limited set of images from the Panoramio site where the images have been mapped, but not actually geotagged in the image EXIF. Garmin’s Panoramio images often have no location data in their EXIF.
Your statement misleads people to think they may be able to load and use any image geotagged with location coordinates in the EXIF for photo navigation, however, this cannot be done, unfortunately. This clumsy and limited way of implementing photo navigation makes it difficult and extremely impractical to try to use your own geotagged photos for photo navigation. You can load your own photos, even without any geotagged EXIF, to Panoramio and map them there, but they may or may not ever show up on the Garmin Connect site WHERE YOU MUST DOWNLOAD ANY IMAGES TO BE USED FOR PHOTO NAVIGATION. And even if they do show up, it may take a while, and they may never all appear at the same time, due to Garmin’s space limitations. No other source works, unless you want to hack up a .gpx file to reference your own geotagged images.
Now that could be a useful app if some developer wants to write something that would create the necessary .gpx file from a geotagged image, so both could be loaded to Garmin device locally to use for photo navigation. This would allow photographer’s to return to a spot they want to revisit, or to share that location with others who may want to navigate there, and free everyone from depending on the limited Garmin Connect site.