So I have had a good few years since closing down my Company and hanging up my ‘enterprise developer’ gloves. Quite scary to think that I have developed over 200 apps since that day when I sat in a room in Microsoft Victoria and first expressed an interest in developing apps for Windows Phone!. At the time I didn’t anticipate being away from Enterprise development quite as long as I have been but circumstances being what they were I guess that was just my destiny … I have run the gamut of apps, starting with a few individual apps that only achieved moderate success I have targeted all manor of strategies in an effort to try and make a living. Criticised for ‘boiler plating’ a large number of apps using a template system I developed myself I am actually most happy when developing apps that are close to my own heart. And so it is with my latest App (or to be more exact suite of apps) that draws on a hobby that started out for me back in 2009 when attending an Orange mobile developer conference in Nice!
Logistics being what they are I discovered that I had a free day at the end of the conference and (another hobby) had only just been reviewing a series of Stereoscopic slides that I had picked up at an auction some years earlier – weren’t there some slides of Nice I thought? I reviewed my collection again and dug out a dozen or so slides that had been taken around Nice some 100 years earlier. My thinking was it would be interesting to try and find the spots in these slides and take ‘up to date’ shots from the same spot. Here is the first one I took after recognising the building while walking along the ‘Promenade des Anglais’:
I took some time and trouble to position the camera at what I perceived to be the same spot as the original photographer some 100 years earlier. It was an amazing experience spending that whole day tracking down the locations and taking ‘up to date’ shots and when I got home I set about thinking how I could present the two images in an interesting way. It so happened that at that time my interest had been peeked in WPF and its latest sibling WPF/E (which later became known as Silverlight). I decided to use the photographs I had taken as the source material, and my motivation for learning how to code in Silverlight. Along the way I took more photographs of the areas around me and incorporated those also (this has become an ongoing hobby with me much to the chagrin of my wife and family who now expect that I will attempt to disappear for an afternoon whenever we go on holiday to somewhere new, in order to feed my latest passion (yes, no excuses, I AM a geek). And so, for a brief period ‘From the Malverns’ (as I called the App) existed on the web and was generally met with positive feedback..
Now along the way I discovered that although I could take 20 or so photos in a day only a small percentage of them (maybe 1 in 4) were usable in the App. How so you say? The simple fact is it is very difficult to find the exact same spot that the original shot was taken from (although very easy to get within a foot of the spot in any particular direction!). Over the years I have tried many ways to improve this process, ranging from using my own stereo cameras from 100 years ago (an attempt to be authentic) to printing out see-though acetates of the original which I would manically hold up in front of me as I lined up buildings and objects from the original that were still in evidence today.
And so for some time I had thought about developing some kind of camera add-on that would assist me in this process. At the same time I wanted to rejuvenate that old Silverlight App and bring it ‘up to date’ as a Windows 8.1 App. And so I am now close to releasing “Vantage Point” for Windows Phone 8, designed to assist in the taking of present day shots matching old locations and ‘Vantage Point’ for Windows 8 which is designed to present them to best effect!
Vantage Point Maker for Windows Phone 8.
This app is difficult to put into words and I have to confess, that although it is for sale in the store it really has a target audience of 1 (being myself). Safe to say that the premise is to allow the user to load in an old photograph (such as the one on the left above), revisit the scene and overlay the same location in the viewfinder in order to take the new shot.. I added a few tricks to assist in lining up the shot – filters (using the excellent Nokia imaging API) allow the original image to be viewed as an outline drawing – which makes aligning building and objects a little easier. I also found it useful to be able to manually change the opacity of each image and automatically blink the old image on and off within the viewfinder. All this has been a great help using my trusty Lumia 920, though it has also served to peek my interest in the new cameras from Nokia (ie those with higher image resolution and larger screens!). In an ideal world I might have a tablet sporting a 10” or larger screen and a high quality camera – that would make the whole capture process significantly easier!
Now, although this app is available in the store I am currently looking at developing it further such that it packages the old and new images taken, along with co-ordinates into a suitable file format for direct input into the Windows 8.1 App, the next logical stage being to encourage users to submit their own photographs, old and new, to become a part of the Windows 8 App experience.
Vantage Point for Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone
The original Silverlight allowed the user to interact with the old and new images in several interesting ways. which are better experienced than explained (note to self, resurrect source and re-publish online). but for this App I wanted an experience that matched the design guidelines and brought something new to the whole experience. ).
Browse Views by County
Map View of Locations (by town)
Interactive view of chosen location
And so the basics of this app is it allows you to view a 100 or so postcards of ‘olden times’ overlaid onto the ‘current view’. (the postcard can be moved around the screen and flipped between old and new views).
Now call me a geek, but I have spend many hours ‘playing’ with my new app – so at least I know have one happy customer).!
(Vantage Point is due to be released shortly into the Windows 8 and Windows Phone stores, after ‘just a little more’ tweaking ….)
Update: Sadly I cannot simply while away all my time on apps like this one indefinitely and I am currently looking for some interesting work developing for Windows Phone and/or Windows 8. Please get in touch if you hear of anything, meanwhile stand by for this awesome App!!