Last year while in Washington, D.C., I had the opportunity to catch up with my long-time friend and colleague David McDonell, who I hadn’t seen for a decade. After catching up on life (his two little kids are now teenagers and joined by another brother), he described a new software project that he was in the process of creating. He works in the area of “visualization” of image data. We subsequently had a number of conversations of a more-or-less technical nature and he asked if we would be willing to let the Via Lucis site be the prototype site for his new Iconicloud software.
Well, we’re proud to be the first to demonstrate how Iconicloud works on a public site. To start the demo, click on the Iconicloud “IC” logo on the top right.
Iconicloud begins with a MetaGallery, a complex feature map. This top-level visualization is built on keywords. In this demo, you can select the MetaGallery based on “Feature” or “Location”.
When one is feature is selected – for example “vault” – all images that meet the criterion are selected in a zoom mode.
When the user clicks on an image, a box appears on the right showing a small preview of the image with a link to the post where the photograph occurs. By clicking on the preview image, a native-resolution image is displayed in the Gallery viewing mode. From there, one can click through a slideshow of all images in that particular cluster.
There is also a MediaNetwork feature, a top level visualization of a Media Library structured by multiple keywords. Such a visualization might include architectural features and church locations.
When a cluster is selected, the box opens in the right with the photo (or in this case a Wikipedia link).
A selected cluster will display all photos and also any videos associated with that cluster.
The viewer can use Iconicloud in both the MetaGallery and MediaNetwork modes to conduct deep investigations into the content of Via Lucis. It is a sophisticated form of visual indexing and exploring tool.
We thought it might be interesting to include a short interview with David McDonell about Iconicloud.
1. What is the name and purpose of your company?
The company behind ICONICLOUD is MEI LLC, a small startup that focuses on innovation, design and “lean-forward” technology solutions.
2. What drove you to develop a visualization engine like Iconicloud?
Personally, I am a very visual (and audio) -centric individual; I like to paint, draw, photograph, listen to music (which I wish I could compose;-), watch the sky and experience the world around me. Professionally, I’ve been immersed in technology and its application since the early 80s with the advent of the internet, the emergence of wireless, and the subsequent explosion of digital media. I see our digital lives today as a culmination of these technology trajectories. I am also an advocate for the “open web” and, as Tim Berners-Lee likes to say, “a universal information space that has a greater value”.
There a several self-evident realities at play that motivated me to design and co-develop ICONICLOUD with my technical colleague, Kevin Quinn and with marketing help from Mike Wong:
- Media is a universal language which appeals in some form or fashion to all user demographics across the planet.
- The “InterWeb” is awash in user-generated and professionally-produced rich, digital media: photos, videos, music, news, entertainment, infographics, presentations, websites, blogs, etc.
- Too Much Information! Most of this media has a limited shelf life, or is buried and goes completely unnoticed or under-appreciated given the effort invested by their creators.
- This media content also has hidden connections and value in the form of textual and other descriptors (i.e. “metadata”) which are not used to full potential.
- Using the inherent correlations and connectivity of this metadata, media content can be contextually linked within their libraries and via the “open web” to create new and dynamic user experiences for discovery, aesthetic appreciation, and sharing.
I like to say that we are enabling a new visual dimension and value to user-generated, rich media content that, otherwise, lives in a static, linear, perhaps text-bound existence on a web page, or in a storage device or database somewhere.
Here’s a quote that motivated me as well: “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” Buckminster Fuller
3. What do you envision such engines as doing in the future?
Well, after we take ICONICLOUD into the realm of WordPress Media Libraries and other Content Management Systems, our ultimate objective is to extend and offer our visual User Experience (what we call “Aurora”) to a global consumer audience. Imagine if your web travels and experiences could be enhanced with custom-designed visualizations that present the media content in new and unexpectedly vibrant ways that pique curiosity and intuitively compel further exploration. We would like to see our planet even more visually engaged in this fashion by using simple yet profoundly powerful techniques for users to curate, collaborate and share their media interests and identifications, particularly across cultural and demographic boundaries. What we call “a Mediaverse in an icon” — and to have all of their visual “clouds” meaningfully connected in a unified, interactive space. That is my vision for ICONICLOUD.
4. If people are interested, where do they go for more information?
We’ve been super busy this summer designing and building the initial ICONICLOUD Aurora Plugin for WordPress to make it a smart and viable product introduction. Now that we are crossing this milestone, we need to turn our attention to the basic marketing and rollout preparations for a successful launch. In other words, we will have our ICONICLOUD.com web presence ready in short order. In the meantime, you can see information about the product at this link.
5. When do you think the new WordPress plug-in will be available? Will you be doing a public beta?
I am really pleased with how the initial implementation has progressed. If users are astute, they will see how well the front-end User Experience performs in handling and presenting a vast array of media and metadata content in a structured visualization format. And, all of this is being done in a standard web browser using HTML5; no server-side tricks or dependencies exist in our approach. And, not to forget, this looks and works really well on tablets and smartphones as well as desktops. With a couple of additional “use-flow” refinements in the works, you really do get an entire WordPress Media Library semantically connected to the Web in a responsive 16:9 display which is ideally suited for portable, interactive user engagements.
Also, we still have some minor refinements to make to the back-end data construction module, so that it is airtight and as flexible as intended.