Tuesday 12 February 2008

I've seen the future - and it's very cool.

Eddie got a really cool toy yesterday - the Celestron Sky Scout. It's a really clever handheld device that uses GPS and some internal electronic accelerometers to figure out where you, what you're pointing it at and it then tells you what that thing is. It only tells you about astronomical things since it's entire purpose is to act as an electronic star chart and that might seem pretty dull to those who have no interest in that sort of thing but I reckon that even those totally uninterested in astronomy and star gazing would find it addictive. It's very quick and that combined with an intuitive interface means that you get carried away looking at the sky in a whole new way, at least for those of us who haven't taken the years it takes to actually memorize it the tedious old manual way using paper charts and binoculars. You can point it at something in the sky and it will tell you what it is or you can pick something from its internal database and it will direct you to where it is in the sky. Its list price of around $500\€500 depending on where you live makes this a pretty expensive gadget which is the main reason I never bought one but Eddie managed to pick his one up, new, on E-Bay for about half that which is definitely worth considering. It has a bunch of connectivity options to allow you to connect it to a PC to update the internal database of objects that should allow it to be used for satellite tracking although I don't know for certain (yet) if that's true. In any case it really is a revelation to use and shows how a fully location\orientation aware device can be fantastically useful.

Coincidentally I read an article on Google Blogoscoped this morning about a more intuitive approach to mobile search that describes something that is practically identical in broad concept to the Sky Scout - simply point this (hypothetical) device at something you are interested in and it will tell you exactly what it is and possibly a whole bunch of other stuff about it. Alternatively it could give you spatial clues (as opposed to the directions that standard GPS systems provide) to allow you to find something within your field of view.

Having seen how the Sky Scout totally changed the way I saw the sky last night when I had it I am certain that we are going to see a host of these type of systems released over the next couple of years that use similar principles to provide people with devices that tell them a host of useful things about what they are looking at and enable them to find interesting stuff around them. I can't wait.

No comments: