Thursday, May 28, 2009

Road-Testing the EyeFi Explore

Picasa Album

This morning on my bike ride, I decided to test out my new wireless memory card. The main selling point of the Eye-Fi cards is that they will wirelessly upload your digital photos to your computer and/or web albums. For me, however, the most intriguing thing about the Eye-Fi is that the Explore modeling will automatically tag photos with geographic coordinates.

How does it do that? GPS? No, actually, it detects wireless networks in the area and compares them versus a map of known wireless networks. If you think, "there aren't enough wireless networks in my area for that to work"...then you're probably wrong.

I tested it out last night in our living room. The first picture I took was tagged as being in the alley behind our house. My thoughts, in order:

  1. Hey! That's not quite right.
  2. Wow! That's actually really close.
  3. Hey! That's actually kinda scary

This morning on my bike ride, I decided to give it a further test. I took pictures at 5 locations. They probably weren't as widely dispersed as they should have been for a great test, but...oh, well.

  1. First, I took a picture while waiting for the light to change at Route 1 and Queens Chapel. One reason I have been riding this route lately is that it's the only light I have to wait for. EyeFi accuracy: within a few feet, it looks like.
  2. Next, I realized I hadn't stretched, so after riding down the steep hill on Amherst, I did some stretching. EyeFi accuracy: a few feet off (it put me on the road instead of the trail).
  3. Then, I decided on something trickier. I rode to the tunnel under the Metro tracks. The tunnel is quite muddy after the recent rains. Yesterday, after braving the mud, I found the way blocked ahead by yellow caution tape. Today, a jogger said that the trail looked open, but I turned around there anyway. EyeFi accuracy: Failure. It defaulted to the previous location. No surprise, since I can't imagine I was near any wireless networks.
  4. On the way back up the hill on Amherst, I slipped a gear and had to turn the bike over to fix it. After my recent bike class, I think I know the problem, but am not sure of my competence to execute the repair myself. EyeFi accuracy: Great. I was especially impressed at the ability to distinguish between this and each of the other nearby locations, half a block away.
  5. I rode back via the University Park tennis courts and took a picture. EyeFi verdict: Failure; it defaulted to the Amherst location. This was a little disappointing, but not shocking.

When I got back, I set my camera down, turned it on...and the first two photos automatically uploaded. Later, I turned the camera back on, and the rest transferred.

Overall, I'm pretty impressed with the EyeFi. I think eventually cameras will need to combine this technology with GPS receivers to get much better coverage, but for now it won't be too hard to clean up the glitches by hand. (I avoided doing so on this set to demonstrate the drawbacks.) Hopefully I'll get to use this in some more exciting locations than College Park soon. Also, I've ordered a camera mount for my bike, so I'm looking forward to trying that out.

PS I just tested the links, and you may have to click on the album itself (rather than the links I've given to individual pictures) to see the mini-map Google provides for each photo.

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