Tech Roundup

Technology Committee members here at Towson University’s Cook Library are always on the hunt for new technology applications to bring into the library or technology-related issues our library should be addressing.  As we scour the internet for important, interesting, or just plain cool examples of technology applications, issues, or news, we post links and  summaries with our take here to the blog.

 SpiderOak encrypted cloud storage adds drag and drop support with Hive

This story from Ars Technica can be of note to the library/academic setting in a couple of ways.  One, is that SpiderOak is another example of a cloud storage services that enables collaboration and sharing similar to other services librarians are already using (much like Dropbox and to some extent Google Drive).  Additionally, the focus on security and encryption is an important development, especially in an environment as open and inclusive as the library. – Matt M.

The Power of Stories through Technology

A great story can serve as creative inspiration for just about anything and some of the most imaginative stories I know came from children. Growing up my mother use to write little captions on all of my pictures as I waxed poetic about how my scribble was actually some epic depiction of my day. Providing the resources to fuel minds is a philosophical goal for most libraries. If there is one thing a librarian understands it’s the power of a story. In  a TED talk, Chimamanda Adichie, tells how dangerous it is to only have one story influencing you, and that we must have a diversity of stories to truly understand the world.  Today it is possible to spread stories in all sorts of ways, through video, blogs, photos, the list grows as people think of new ways to use technology such as Instagram, Twitter and Tumblr. Consider the following projects and consider how you could utilize the technology within your library to help spark creativity.

Written by a Kid – While you may not have the resources to recreate children’s stories into miniature movies, there are tools such as Xtranormal that could allow you to partner up to create a small animation.

Caine’s Arcade – The inspirational story of Caine building a cardboard arcade is a prime example of what is possible if the time, space and supplies are provided for a creative mind. Makerspace is a concept which brings people together to share and create and a library could be a prime location to hold a Makerspace event.

Here are a few other projects inspired by children that you can check out just for fun:


Create an All-iPad Class Radio Show with AudioBoo, Bossjock, GoodReader, & SoundCloud

I’ve been thinking a lot about how I can create in-class activities during instruction sessions that are more challenging and more “fun” than a standard worksheet. This article from Moving at the Speed of Creativity caught my attention because it talks about using several different applications to create a class radio show, all using the iPad. Though the article is aimed more at a K-12 audience, I think academic librarians should also continue challenging themselves to incorporate creative, multimedia activities into the classroom. – Kim

Who’s Liable for Crimes Committed with 3D-Printed Guns?

3D printers are a hot topic in the library world right now, with many libraries enthusiastically starting to incorporate them into the library service. Academic libraries are also specifically exploring how providing 3D printing can benefit students or faculty. This article from Mashable brings up some interesting questions regarding how this technology should (or, at least, could) be regulated in light of the recent buzz around a 3D-printed handgun which successfully fired its first shots. As more libraries bring 3D printers into their spaces, there will also certainly be a continued discussion of when and how to monitor the materials users are producing. – Kim

What do you think about some of the issues or technologies presented?  Have you found anything interesting online this week? Share in the comments!

Creating Panoramas with Hugin

Upon returning from last month’s ACRL 2013 conference, I was excited to sit down and explore Hugin after more than one librarian mentioned using it to create panoramic and/or 360-degree images (for one example, see this PDF of Scott Rice and Margaret Gregor’s Presentation  “This Library Orientation is Fun! Building a Successful Virtual Experience for Students”).

Based on the Panorama Tools project, Hugin is a free, cross-platform photo stitcher that allows you to join overlapping images into a single panoramic image. Although Hugin’s advanced features can be initially overwhelming for the casual user, with seemingly endless image manipulation tools,  the “Assistant” tab can get you started creating panoramas in just three quick steps.

After downloading Hugin, the first step in the assistant is to load your images. I decided to test out Hugin using images of the Towson University campus I snapped with my phone’s camera. Hugin will attempt to automatically detect information about the lens used to take the images, and it easily recognized the information for my iPhone’s camera.

Hugin Assistant

Hugin Assistant

The next step is to “Align” the images. Hugin automatically attempts to create a single panoramic image from the images you upload – including selecting “control points” between images (significant overlapping points in each photo used to align the images). From there, you can also adjust a number of other settings, including layout, projection, and cropping.

Hugin Panorama Preview

Hugin Panorama Preview

Finally, you can “Create your panorama.” The Hugin processor will ask you to save your project (which means you can come back to work with it again later) and will produce your panoramic image. (Tip: It look me a while to find, but you can adjust the image file output to produce TIFF, JPEG, or PNG files in the “Sticher” tab in the upper right-hand portion of the Hugin screen).

Below you can see the before and after of the simple panorama I created using Hugin. Four individual photos are stitched together to create a single image, with the Hugin assistant automatically attempting to adjust the images’ exposure, orientation, and cropping. If you are not pleased with your panorama, you can go back and try adjusting any of the image settings as-needed.

Image series before....

Image series before….

Panorama after using Hugin

… and panorama after using Hugin.

Creating this simple panorama with the Hugin assistant took me less than five minutes from start to finish (maybe 10 minutes if you include install and picture taking time). You can also opt to by-pass the assistant, and follow these directions provided by Hugin to dig deeper into the program. The assistant feature seemed to work well with my smartphone snapshots in “ideal” photographic settings – outdoors, with plenty of natural light and subjects that are farther in the distance. More complicated projects would benefit from someone with an interest in digital photography and equipment that is much more sophisticated than a smartphone camera.

Although there are more settings than I could fully explore in one sitting, I can see how the advanced features in the tool would be useful for larger projects, particularly in the hands of users with a higher level of photography experience and knowledge (or time and interest to develop such knowledge). Libraries might be interested in further exploring Hugin if they are producing images of their library to use, for instance, in promotional materials or online tours.

Hugin also includes tutorials on its site that demonstrate several other techniques, including stitching multiple rows together and joining scanned images. And according to Hugin’s website, they will be unrolling a new interface sometime in 2013 (you can see a preview on the Hugin website), which promises to include Simple, Advanced, and Expert settings.

Why not take a few quick shots of your library and see what you can create!