In order to continue developing my programming abilities, I have begun a project which fascinates me, but I currently have nowhere near enough skills to complete...  
(All my professional programming is currently focused on data processing, rather than user interfaces and image processing which will be front and center here... Should be fun! Maybe I'll start a youtube channel in order to Vlog about my progress... Probably not but a Nerd can dream...)

The goal is to develop a tool (first a personal tool then a web-tool and possibly a mobile app) to show a user what states, countries, or continents are surrounding them in any direction. 


The idea for the project came, as so many do, from a moment of profound embarrassment... Looking out from Delaware across the Atlantic ocean at night, I marveled at the view: "To one side we can barely see the lights across the bay from New Jersey, and just next to it there's nothing until you hit Britannia!" ...

Of course it was pointed out to me that (as much as my Eurocentric education might have me believe), it is in fact impossible to draw anything but the slimmest of lines between Delaware and the British Isles... 

While I had imagined that Britain shared about equal parts of my horizon with the likes of France and Iberia, it actually is almost entirely obscured by Newfoundland. Not to mention how much smaller it is than most of us imagine. 

In case your mind is rejecting this info as much as mine did at midnight last July, To the right I've included a set of images: the familiar but very misleading "Mercator Projection", next to an actual navigational map of the North Atlantic! 
(I could go on about maps for ever... but instead I've included a great Youtube-Video about map projections. Nerd away.)


Photos and links not up yet as of 8/2/16...
Hopefully I'll fix this soon.



Azimuthal Map Projections. 
On the left is a map centered around my home in Pittsburgh PA. The image on the right is much more familiar: The logo of the United Nations, centered around the North Pole. 
Note: It looks like someone has beaten me to part of the project. The picture at left is from HTTP://NS6T.NET/AZIMUTH/, which will generate a PDF azimuthal map centered around a given coordinate set.

To atone for my error, I've decided to create a webtool / app which will use a digital globe to create an Azimuthal projection centered around any specific location. 

An Azimthal map projection is unique, as it puts the planet into simple 2D coordinates: every point the same radius away is the same distance from you (the center), and importantly, any straight line you draw from the center is an actual straight line on the globe.


The next step from there will be to make features on that map interactive, so that I can map specific results onto a compass and tell the user what they would find in any given direction. These are the three big options I want to include:

  • What is the nearest Sea/Ocean in any direction?
  • What is the nearest Country (other than the one I'm in)?
  • What is the nearest Continent/Landmass?

To start, I will be developing a tool on my own computer similar to Tom from N56T, though I've yet to decide quite how to start. The next goal as mentioned will be to have that tool create a map where each Country, continent, and large body of water is identified in the program (First goal will be to simply mouse-over to ID them. 

Once I have done that, I'll learn how to upload the tool for anyone to use, and work on a user interface to easily allow a user to generate a new map, apply my filters, and discover what is in each direction from them.

The final stage that I forsee is learning how to develop the tool as an Android or Iphone app, and to use the camera feature to overlay the results on the real world, augmented-reality style.