It’s probably not something that you can wrap your head around pretty quickly. It’s also not something you can describe in quick, easily digestible terms.
“It” is a new Microsoft Bing effort called Read/Write World that has some pretty lofty goals: things like indexing and connecting all of the world’s “geo-linked media.” And not just indexing and connecting all this media, but also making it easy to use and consume, too, on any platform and type of device.
It’s stuff like maps, photos, panoramas, movies, business listings — almost anything that can be tied to a physical location — and tying it together inside a pretty box that’s easy to open. The clichéd explanation would be this: It’s like your favorite mapping service on steroids.
This three-minute video gives a good idea of what it might look like, with its combination of mapping, Streetside photos, Photosynth panoramas, interior business videos and such.
There’s obviously a technical element involved in making all this happen, and Microsoft has created a new programming language called RML — Reality Markup Language — to describe the geographic relationships between different pieces of media. And just in case I’ve oversimplified all of this so far, here’s how Microsoft itself describes the project:
The goals of a Read/Write World viewer are ambitious. Our prototype shows the importance of being able to combine nadir, oblique, and “human scale” map imagery with photos (flat or multi-resolution), panoramas (equirectangular, cylindrical, cubemapped, …) video in different formats, models (locally or globally textured), and annotations. In order to span and connect these diverse representations, we’ve invented a little glue language that we modestly call “Reality Markup Language” (RML).
It sounds a bit heavy on the programming/dev side of things, but the Bing blog post also mentions things that sound like they’ll be geared toward us regular folks, like
- Being able to simply create immersive experiences from your own and others’ photos, videos, panoramas, and models
- “Fixing” the world, when the official imagery of your street is out of date.
- Visually mapping your business, your rental apartment, or your local strip mall, and allowing everyone to explore it.
There’s no question that the idea behind Read/Write World is ambitious and, if you watched the video above, you probably saw the potential for something pretty cool. But making this something that both developers and laypeople can contribute to would be quite an accomplishment.