31 de Mayo 2006
Near Real-time Severe Weather Data for the US from NOAA
The National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL) at the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has been experimenting with Google Earth as a visualization platform. Last year I had put an earlier version of their radar reflectivity composites in a storm tracking tools collection. The nice feature being that the radar data had transparent areas where there were no storms, so you could still see the satellite photos for unaffected areas. I am in the process of collecting new storm tracking tools for this year's storm season. The NSSL has been improving their excellent collection of network links for tracking thunder storms (read some papers they have publised on using GE for weather).
The most useful network link at the NSSL web site is the CONUS radar reflectivity map with severe warning polygons (the areas where severe warnings are in effect). Note: the data is updated every 1 to 2 minutes. You can turn on and off a "Contrast Adjustment" (black or white) which helps highlight the data. You might also want the satellite maps to compare IR, visible, and water vapor satellite photos (which update every 10 minutes) to the radar data . The visible satellite file is missing when it is not daylight hours in the US. The storms yesterday afternoon were pretty interesting.
There are many other useful Google Earth files and weather data on the NSSL web site. If you are really into weather, I encourage you to look. Very soon I will be publishing a new collection of storm tracking tools for Google Earth to help track tropical storms and hurricanes. Leave me a comment here if you know of any particularly good new ones.
30 de Mayo 2006
Pin in the Map - Keep it Simple
Last Friday, Chris Parsons of Eden Development announced the release of Pin in the Map. Chris was the author of one of my favorite Google Earth network links - the Global Cloud Map (which lets you see the clouds on the Earth from near real-time satellite photos). The concept of Pin in the Map is targeted to make it as simple as possible to mark a place on the Earth and share it. This is something I've seen done very well before with Tagzania, so I struggled to think of a way to explain how this was different. Stefan at OgleEarth popped up with a story and he described it very well: Pin in the Map is like TinyURL for location.
With Pin in the Map you don't need to set up an account. You simply find a location you want to share with Pin in the Map's Google Maps, then simply click to put in the pin. Type in a description (there are some text formatting features available). And you're done. You are given a pininthemap.com url which includes a unique code. If you attach "/earth" to it you have a link to the same spot in Google Earth. For example, here is a link to the Googleplex for Google Maps, and for Google Earth . The URL is this: http://pininthemap.com/pp05b23afcbcf2a2cd8.
Pin in the Map also plans to offer a premium service. The two key features so far for the premium service will be to get rid of ads appearing around the map, and to have your own custom URL like: http://pininthemap.com/googleplex> (for example). Tagzania has a much more powerful interface with many more features, and you can get a readable URL (once you set up a free account) by simply creating a tag (for example http://tagzania.com/tag/googleplex). But, there's always room on the Internet for even simpler interfaces. Great work Chris.
29 de Mayo 2006
Memorial Day - Medal of Honor Recipients
The Medal of Honor is the highest military decoration awarded by the United States. It is awarded "for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life, above and beyond the call of duty, in actual combat against an armed enemy force."
The China (The Boxer Rebellion) 1900, Mexican (Vera Cruz) 1914, Haiti 1915 Campaign, Dominican Campaign 1916, World War I 1917-1918, Haiti 1919 - 1920, Nicaraguan Campaign 1927 - 1933, World War II 1941 - 1945, North Korea 1950 - 1953, Vietnam 1964 - 1973, Somalia 1993 and The War On Terror (2002 - Present).
The collection shows the placemarks of the birthplaces of each winner and the descriptions show date of birth, rank, organization, location of deed, and the citation. Photos are also available. The collection was developed by 'Up_The_Spurs' from the Google Earth Community who also did the recipients of the Victoria Cross.
The collection doesn't show fancy photos, or 3D models, but each and every placemark contains a hero.
Google Earth for Linux to Follow Picasa
Last week Google released their really great photo tool Picasa for Linux. They did this by making refinements to the open source Windows API software called WINE. A recent story in the WINE newsletter about the port mentions that Google is doing the same thing for Google Earth. Google Open Source Program Manager Chris DiBona has revealed that Google Earth will be the next application ported according to a LinuxToday story.
For those of you who think Google should port Google Earth natively, the Google Operating System blog has this to say:
Many Linux users think Google should build native versions for their software, instead of using Wine, but if Wine becomes powerful enough to run (almost) any Windows software everyone will gain: more people will adopt Linux because they can use their favorite applications and companies will have a wider audience for their software.
Great Pyramid of Giza in 3D
The Great Pyramid of Giza, one of the seven wonders of the world, can be seen in the satellite photos of Google Earth. But, it is just a 2D photo on a hill of terrain, not the actual structure. Yesterday, someone called 'atf' at the Google Earth Community posted an excellent 3D model of the Great Pyramid which also shows the interior chambers by making the walls of the pyramid transparent. Once you load the model, you need to turn off the "Terrain Layer" to see the full model. He has provided a number of camera views - look at the "Views" folder and then double click on the various views. This lets you get a close look at the entrance, Queen's chamber, the King's chamber, etc.
Two weeks ago I posted an article about the tomb of King Tut which also used similar 3D techniques. I expect many other interesting archaelogical sites will be created for visualization like this.
28 de Mayo 2006
Google Earth Blog Presenting at Google Geo Developer Day
The Google Geo Developer Day being held one day prior to the Where 2.0 conference filled up after only a few days. However, Google has had so many requests, they've decided to open up a waiting list to Where 2.0 registrants who want to come, and if they get a bigger venue, they'll let those on the waiting list first attend. In addition to the details at the waiting list registration form, you should know that I will be making a presentation at Geo Developer Day of unique Google Earth collections of placemarks, network links, and applications. Mike Pegg of GoogleMapsMania will be presenting Google Maps mashups as well. Hope to see you there!
Unicycling for College Money - Track Max in Google Earth
This is a rather unique idea for raising money for college: Ride a unicycle through 6 states in the northeast and collect money by amusing people along the way and through a clever web site. So, that's what Max DeMilner is doing. And what better way to visualize and track Unicycle Max than through a Google Earth network link ? Max has a GPS and his brother periodically receives the GPS track and uploads it to the server so you can see his track.
I was contacted by Max's brother Kyle who is managing the web site. Kyle asked for some help with setting up the Google Earth file and I simply recommended the use of the network link. This is a really unique and fun idea. You can turn on the roads layer in Google Earth and zoom in and look at the aerial photography to see the places he went. I recommend you visit the nicely designed web site, look at some of the fun pictures and videos, read about how he got stuck for a week due to raining and flooding, and check out where he is today (or just see the route he took). And, how about dropping Max $5 or more for his entertainment and college education?
26 de Mayo 2006
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil Points of Interest in Google Earth
Here is another collection of placemarks showing many of the points of interests in a popular city. This time we have Rio de Janeiro in Brazil with over 1000 placemarks (in portuguese). The collection also contains polygons showing the borders of districts (counties?) in the area. Each district has a placemark showing its approximate population. It is being maintained by a 'muxaxo_rj', who for some reason has put his E-mail address as a link in most of the placemarks. There have been contributions from many other brazilians in the thread. There are a number of web cam placemarks in the area as well. I really like web cam placemarks where you can compare the GE views to the real-life current web cam shots.
If you're going to visit Rio, you really can't miss seeing the famous Christ the Redeemer statue up in the mountains. So, here is a 3D model of the statue posted by 'wribeiro'. Of course, you can also turn on the Google Earth Community layers in GE and see even more points of interest.
Cape Wind Project in Google Earth
This is another example of using Google Earth to visualize a controversial building project. The Cape Wind Project is a proposal to build the first offshore wind farm in the United States in the vicinity of Nantucket Island and Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts. Someone named 'RockyRaccoon' at the Google Earth Community posted information about this last year and included a map overlay showing the area. Apparently the primary concern is that the wind farm will scar the views from these locations.
Recently, someone named 'redgreenblue' posted a Google Earth file with 3D models of the wind turbines in the proposed locations. Now you can put yourself on the shore and see what the view would look like in GE's realistic views using satellite photos and 3D terrain. I suggest you turn off the map overlay before testing the views. The GE file includes views from the wind farm, and views from the shore. Just double click on the different camera view placemarks. Because the wind turbines are located several miles off shore, the curvature of the Earth causes some of the turbines to be below the horizon. The camera views don't get you close enough to the ground. I suggest you try to get lower to get a more realist view. 'redgreenblue' has included some retouched photos to simulate the views as well. You will notice some of the views show no sign of the turbines.
25 de Mayo 2006
Ohio Fatal Traffic Crash Map for 2005 in Google Earth
The Ohio State Highway Patrol has just released a well done, and dramatic, collection of placemarks showing the locations and details of fatal traffic accidents in the state during 2005. The number of fatal crashes is stunning. Download the Ohio fatal traffic accidents collection now. They have used icons to represent whether the fatality was in a car, motorcycle, alcohol related, or commercial. Each placemark contains details on number of fatalities, location, type, alcohol involved, and the cause. You can zoom in and see the actual location in the satellite/aerial photos in GE, and turn on the roads layer to see better where each happened.
"It is imperative that motorists are educated about traffic safety and understand the dangers on Ohio's roadways," Colonel Paul McClellan, Patrol superintendent said. "Providing accurate and detailed information utilizing Google Earth will help to inform troopers as well as the public about these problem areas."
It seems quite a few people just drive off the road in rural areas and alcohol is not even involved. The other strong point clearly illustrated is that drinking and driving really is dangerous.
Tour de France 2006 in Google Earth
[NOTE: This file now has "live tracking" of the race. Read more.]
Last year, shortly after Google Earth was released, a bunch of Tour de France (TdF) fans in the Google Earth Community (GEC) put up the complete route of the 2005 TdF. The race was still going on while they were completing it. This year, the complete TdF 2006 course has already been mapped in Google Earth well ahead of the July 1st start (see the official TdF 2006 web site). It's a network link, so any refinements will get updated automatically, so save it in your "My Places" if you plan to follow the race. Once it loads, you will just see the tracks for each stage. For more details open up the folder and turn on each stage's detailed placemarks showing the checkpoints. You can check out the satellite photos, but more importantly make sure you use the pan/tilt features in GE so you can see the mountains they go through. Thanks to 'lucifer666' at the GEC, who also did the Volvo Ocean Race network link.
24 de Mayo 2006
Microsoft Imagery Update for UK
Google Earth Blog rarely comments on other mapping products since it is focused on GE. However, the release last night of Microsoft's Windows Live Local new imagery for the UK is worth mentioning. The new Live Local imagery is really much superior to the satellite/aerial photos in the Google Earth/Maps database for the UK (Google above, Microsoft below in screenshot of the London Eye here). Live Local's imagery has been processed for clarity, color balance, and sharpness. The resolution is equal to Google's best imagery for the area, and it is much better in several areas in the UK where Google's isn't even high resolution. For a real comparison, I recommend trying FlashEarth which lets you zoom with the mousewheel and simply click between Live Local and Google Maps satellite views. Google's data looks like a patched quilt of imagery from on high, while Microsofts looks much more consistent.
Not long ago Microsoft announced it had invested serious money to compete with Google, and they have made some significant acquisitions of companies in the aerial photography and virtual earth industry. Hopefully Google has been taking notes. Because Google is going to need to release some serious upgrades soon to Google Maps and Google Earth or they will lose the leadership advantage they have had for the last year. Also see OgleEarth's comments on this subject.
I decided to try using Google's Picassa on the Google Maps version of the London Eye used in the comparison above. I did a "feeling lucky", color saturation, and a sharpness. The quality of the new image is much improved. This is the kind of thing I'm sure Microsoft has done with their data in order to get the better look. You can see the result in the photo here (click on the thumbnail for a better view).
Now all Google needs to do is a "little" processing on several hundred thousand square kilometers of photos and their pictures will look just as good. :-)
23 de Mayo 2006
Integrating Calendar Events to Location in Google Earth
For a long time, I've been expecting to see a lot more integration between calendar events and location information. For example, you should be able to have a Google Map inside your Google Calendar and see pushpins for your event locations. This would enable you to have directions built right into your calendar appointments. You can already create an HTML link to a map or GE file for a calendar event right now. And, while you are perusing in Google Earth, you should be able to turn on calendars of events to see what is happening. For example, while looking at New York you should be able to turn on the "broadway show" layer and see placemarks for what shows are showing tonight and where they are located. And, the placemark description should have a link to buy an E-ticket.
Just last week, someone in Austria announced a cool web site which is a big step in the right direction. The web site has the whimsical name of Shnitzl, it's free, and it lets you create events and show them in Google Earth! Right now there is just a few events mostly in Austria. But, anyone can open an account and create events for anywhere in the world. Look at the network link for the events here. One thing I like is that it has color coded icons according to whether a placemark is a future event, current event, past event, or just the venue for an event. And of course, you can use Google Earth to get driving directions, check out the satellite photos, search for a place to eat before or after, etc., etc.
Discount to Where 2.0 for GEB Readers
If you have not yet registered for the Where 2.0 conference, you can get a 10% discount by being a Google Earth Blog reader. The O'Reilly Where 2.0 conference brings together the people, projects, and issues leading the charge into the location-based technology frontier. Location-aware technologies combined with mapping and other data are poised to create a whole new class of web apps and services. Where 2.0 will explore what's viable now, and what's lurking just below the radar. Meet the people behind the mash-ups and the platforms, and the people looking ahead to the future of geospatial. Where 2.0 will be held June 13-14, 2006 at the Fairmont Hotel San Jose, California. Google Earth Blog readers get 10% off registration using code whr06gglerth. For more information visit http://conferences.oreilly.com/where.
22 de Mayo 2006
See More Recent Aerial Photos in Google Earth
Aerials Express has made a press release announcing a new service allowing you to see more recent aerial photography for a significant portion of the populated US. The new service being introduced is called ViewGL (Beta). "ViewGL feeds Aerials Express' premium aerial content directly into the Google Earth platform..." But, they have also released examples as Google Earth network links you can try for six areas in the US: Atlanta , Chicago , Las Vegas , Milwaukee , Northern California , and Phoenix . After you pause over the selected area for a second it will begin loading an image for that view. Zoom down close to see better detail. [NOTE: there are confirmed problems with the GE Mac Version.] If you live in one of these areas, you will probably want to go there now and check out your home area to see if there are more recent aerial photos. [NOTE: available only for about 30 days. See below.]. You can also see in GE the coverage areas of the US for photos from Aerials Express.
Details on the Service:
"Google Earth has had a very positive impact on our business," states Bill Landis, CEO of Aerials Express. The press release indicates that ViewGL is targeted for "giving professionals access to the latest high resolution imagery available." I imagine people in the real estate industry, property tax verification, and other government sectors will find this immediately interesting. However, I wonder if they are missing an even bigger opportunity. Why not offer this service to consumers who are hungry for more recent photos of their houses and communities?
[Edit 12:30 22-May-06: I spoke to Bill Landis. Bill says ViewGL access will cost $495 for regional access, and $1995 for access to the entire US, for a single-user license. The licensed access will be for a limited period of time, but you can take screenshots or print from Google Earth the areas you are interested. You will need Google Earth Plus or Pro if you want to print at higher resolution. Bill also said that the free access to the six example regions will only be provided for the next 30 days. In addition, Bill says they are considering ways to provide photography to a broader audience.]
Hotel Bookings for Europe in Google Earth
Just last week I was remarking that it was surprising more online lodging services were not using Google Earth. Well, one of the more established online lodging services for Europe, booking.com, has implemented its own Google Earth implementation. They have a hotel finder network link which lets you zoom over an area (you need to be below 100 km), and it will then load hotels for that area. One thing I was impressed by is they have implemented the GE and web interfaces in several languages (just click on the flag for the language you prefer). Each hotel placemark can contain photos, description, and links to more information including reservation capability. Once you find the hotel you think you like, make sure you zoom in in Google Earth to look at the scenery in the satellite photos. Also, turn on the Google Earth Community layers to see what interesting things are nearby.
21 de Mayo 2006
Google Earth Business
Internet News has published a story by Nicholas Carlson called "Commercializing the World, Google Style". In the story he quotes John Hanke, former CEO of Keyhole and now the general manager of Google Earth, about his vision of Google Earth. The quotes have to do with the evolution of the product while it was still Keyhole and how even he was surprised at how "people had begun to collaboratively figure out" new ways to use the application. I don't believe Carlson was able to get new quotes from Hanke in this article. Google, as a public company, is very careful about making statements about its business strategy. None of the Hanke quotes talk about current of future strategy. Hanke is quoted about the costs for deploying all of this satellite photos and the huge bandwidth demands of GE: "It is really expensive to collect and provide all this data".
So, what is the business model?
Carlson does get quotes from other businesses. He quotes Zillow.com as a "naysayer" who thinks Google Earth's openness to allowing cultural content (i.e. non-business oriented content) is of no use to a business. Of course, Zillow.com has a business alliance with Microsoft - so what do you expect? He also quotes Tim Hibbard (of "Where's Tim?" fame) who has built a way to allow people to track his movements with his GPS phone using Google Earth/Maps. His employer is a GPS tracking company and the publicity from the tracking site has enabled his business to grow.
Some interesting speculation in the article, but nothing really new. Read some of my thoughts back in August about business opportunities surrounding GE. There have been a few notable revenue generating changes at Google in the last few months: 1) Google bought SketchUp which had its own profitable revenue stream; 2) Google has made some joint marketing content pushes like National Geographics, Discovery Channel, and Las Vegas; and 3) ads have been deployed in Google Earth. In my opinion, Google has only scratched the surface on the possibilities for monetizing Google Earth and Maps. If they are smart, and Google has a lot of smart people, they have been working on these possibilities. One thing is for sure, Microsoft has definitely been working on new things to compete with Google Earth/Maps. I expect the next few months are going to be very interesting in the way of new software releases.
20 de Mayo 2006
Global Volcanoes by Smithsonian Institution for Google Earth
There was a lot of interest in volcanic eruptions this week after the elevated alert status of Mount Merapi in Java, Indonesia. I just discovered that the Smithsonian Institution has an excellent educational web site about volcanoes which is home to the Global Volcanism Program. It turns out their data serves as a source for the Volcano World data provided in last week's article. On the new Smithsonian site is a new Google Earth file which shows the locations of all Holocene-era volcanoes (last 10,000 years) . More importantly, the placemarks contain a great deal of useful information and many have excellent photos of the corresponding volcano. This collection is vastly superior to the "Volcano Layer" provided with Google Earth. I highly recommend you check this one out.
Make sure you use the pan/tilt features of Google Earth to view the 3D views of the volcanoes while you are looking at the satellite photos. One thing you may notice is that some of the placemarks do not appear over the tops of volcano peaks. The Smithsonian site explains this in detail, but the primary reason is that they put the placemark at the center of a field of volcanoes/vents in many cases rather than mark each vent.
19 de Mayo 2006
MI6 Headquarters in 3D for Google Earth
This quite attractive building is the headquarters of British Secret Intelligent Services MI6 located in Vauxhall Cross, in western London, England. It makes an interesting 3D model project for SketchUp. Or, so thought Google Earth Community (GEC) member 'barnabu' who posted this 3D model of the MI6 headquarters earlier this week. The building was designed by architect Terry Farrell in 1987. The building has appeared in James Bond movies including "Golden Eye", "The World is Not Enough", and "Die Another Day". Perhaps you can figure out the scenes from the movies by looking at the satellite photos and this 3D model in Google Earth. You can read more detail about this building and see some photos at the Wikipedia.
Three Mile Island in 3D for Google Earth
Here we have a nice 3D model of an infamous location: Three Mile Island near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, USA. This was the site in 1979 of a partial core meltdown which did not result in any identifiable injuries or the need for evacuation. See details at Wikipedia. The Three Mile Island model was created by Joe Wade and posted at the Google Earth Community. When you first open the model, he has one of the cores exposed in a cut-away view so you can see he has modeled the core interior. You can click on "Core_half" to return the missing half. If you turn off the 3D models you can also see the plant in the satellite photo provided by Google Earth. Nice work Joe!
Decrease in Avian Flu Spread During Last Month
The database of the Avian Flu outbreak map by Declan Butler (Senior Editor of Nature Magazine) has just been updated. When you first load the network link it shows just the new cases since the last update (which was mid-April). There has been a dramatic decrease in the number of new outbreaks during the last month (compared to the previous update). During the last update there were hundreds of new outbreak locations. In this case there appear to be just a few new cases, although there are actually about a hundred (most are concentrated in Myanmar, Mandalay). Howeer, if you look at the placemarks you will see it still involves tens of thousands of cases - since some of the locations are poultry farms. It's possible the warming spring temperatures have something to do with the decrease in growth rate of the flu. It's spread is likely to return as the temperatures reduce in the southern hemisphere. Turn on the full data, by clicking on the "H5N1 map" folder, to see the full extent of the avian flu outbreaks since it began.
18 de Mayo 2006
Down Under and Kiwis Get Roads in Google Maps
GoogleMapsMania reports that Google Maps got a data update last night which gives Australia and New Zealand detailed road maps. Further inspection shows that the road layer has not fully migrated to the Satellite - Hybrid view. More importantly, a quick check does NOT show detailed roads yet for Google Earth. In the past, Google has released new road data layers in Google Earth first, then Google Maps. I guess they wanted to give maps a chance this time. Hopefully, the road data will migrate to the GE database soon. Since there hasn't been a formal announcement from Google, they probably haven't finished deployment of the new road data layers.
Who is Vanessa? - Google Earth Sleuthing
Another one of those mystery views from a satellite photo in Google Earth. Someone at the Google Earth Community noticed a womans name and "phone number" written in 12-meter tall letters on the ground near Belo Horizonte, Brazil. You can view the location here. So, the poster asked why someone would do this? Somone speculated maybe a real estate developer (based on the nearby development). Then, about 2 months later someone called 'jfjunior' posted he had done some Google searching and discovered "Vanessa 45444" was an MPP candidate, or in Portuguese a "Candidato a Deputada Estadual". Apparently the photo is from 2002, because 45444 was the number she used during that election. It amazes me how the Internet enables you to find out about almost anything odd you may see if enough people look into it. There's now almost 500,000 registered members at the GEC forums. And for every registered user there is usually 15-20 people not registered viewing the forums.
Volvo Ocean Race Leg 7 in Google Earth
The 7th leg of the Volvo Ocean Race round-the-world yacht race has been going on for a week. They left New York headed for Portsmouth, England - a distance of about 3300 nautical miles. You can download the Volvo Ocean Race file now and see the history of the previous four legs and watch the LIVE race in Google Earth.
Meanwhile, Dee Caffari on Aviva is about to complete her solo round-the-world against the prevailing winds record attempt in Southhampton, England late today. See my story about her Google Earth track, and the Aviva Challenge web site for details on her arrival.
17 de Mayo 2006
Da Vinci Code Tour in Google Earth
Just watched the "Da Vinci Code" movie and want to know where the scenes took place?. GoogleMapsMania points out that a Google Maps mashup called Da Vinci Tour which includes not only places which are in the movie, but also routes the characters supposedly took. The Da Vinci Tour is also available in Google Earth which makes it even easier to zoom in and look at the satellite and aerial photos and view the routes of the characters. Tagzania also has also created a collection of Da Vinci Code locations.
Accomodation Planning for Norway in Google Earth
It is amazing to me that the travel industry has not embraced using Google Earth to a larger extent. So far, for GE we have seen one big global hotel listing (Earthbooker), one air fare locator, and a bed and breakfast guide. If you are going to Norway, there is an excellent resource called Reiselivsbasen with links to more than 4000 lodgings in Norway. Unfortunately, Norway has limited high resolution satellite photos, but even so it is still beautiful to look at in GE. This travel tool not only supports Google Earth, but also allows you to get location information and download it for use in your GPS so you'll be ready when you arrive. Reiselivsbasen is definitely worth reviewing if your planning a trip to Norway, or if you are looking for ways to use Google Earth and GPS for your travel site.
Here's a sample of hotel listings with pictures in the placemarks. Each hotel listing can have photos, acommodation information, directions, mapped location, a Google Earth link, contact information, payment options, and more. You can also create your own map of places for use with a GPS (go here for instructions), it supports export to TomTom, GPX, and KMZ. Also provided is a Google Earth network link called GE LiveLookup which lets you look at places in Norway and it will automatically find the 30 nearest accomodations (including camping, hotels, bed and breakfastes, etc.). Thanks to the author Arnulf for contacting me. Great work!
16 de Mayo 2006
Laval University Campus in Google Earth
Last month I wrote about a Google Earth campus map created for Bowdoin College. Now, a company in Quebec, Canada has created a 3D map of Laval University campus. In this case, the main campus buildings have simple 3D models overlayed on top of the satellite photos in GE to help enhance the feel of the campus. Placemarks provide photos and links to more information (in French). GeoWebServices appears to be an enterprising new geographic information services company which is currently occupying a non-profit .org domain name.
A few interesting news items and tips for SketchUp users:
- SketchUp has announced Mac OSX SketchUp Pro 5 users can now download an OSX Google Earth plugin so they can also post and download to and from the Google 3D Warehouse. Mac users should read the above announcement first as there are some important instructions required for a successful installation. The free Google SketchUp for Mac OSX is still not out yet.
- SketchUp3D.org - a new blog dedicated to sharing ideas, news, tutorials, and examples for using SketchUp effectively. via OgleEarth.
- SketchUp video tutorials - this page lets you view (or download) a number of video tutorials showing how to create models with SketchUp. I highly recommend these. My favorite is "Model from a photo" which just amazed me.
If you haven't downloaded the free Google SketchUp, I highly recommend it. This is an amazing tool for creating 3D models. Google SketchUp is a free application whose primary purpose is for outputting models for use in Google Earth and is for personal use only. SketchUp 5 Pro is the commercial version (US$ 495) which can be used for commercial purposes and allows exporting your models to many formats and printing (you can download a free 8-hour trial).
15 de Mayo 2006
Mount Merapi Volcano in Google Earth
"Mount Merapi is a conical volcano in Central Java, Indonesia. It is the most active volcano in Indonesia and has erupted 68 times since 1548. Its name means Mountain of Fire." from Wikipedia. Mount Merapi is currently spewing ash and rock and is at the highest level of alert prompting evacutations in the area. You can see this angry mountain in the satellite photos and 3D views in Google Earth with a little help from Volcano World. Volcano World keeps track of volcanoes all over the world. One of the Google Earth Community (GEC) members, who calls himself 'Herminator', created some network links, and wrote some code, to process Volcano World's data which allows you to check on all the volcanoes of the world from Google Earth. His network links include:
- Current eruptions
- Historic eruptions
- Global Volcanism Program's Weekly report - By the Smithsonian Institute and USGS.
If you load "Current eruptions" for example, and open the folder in the Places pane, you will find "Merapi, Java, Indonesia" listed. Double click on it to fly to Merapi and see this colorful satellite photo in 3D. Open the placemark and you will get details and links to perform a Google Search or a Wikipedia search for more information. Very nice interface! Herminator was also the creator of the World Heritage sites which are now part of the GE Community Showcase.
Cricket Venues in Google Earth
Last week I was told about an article at GoogleMapsMania about a mashup for international test Cricket venues which also had Google Earth support. After noticing a problem with the download, I contacted the author of the Cricketing Yak and explained how to set up the Google Earth file on his server by setting the mime-types. You can easily download the Cricket venues for the UK and Australia now (he plans to add more areas later for GE). Each placemark shows the actual field/stadium in GE's satellite photos where cricket is played, and the descriptions provide photos, local weather, and a link to scores. Other countries are displayed in the Google Maps version.
Related - other sports:
- World Football Stadiums
- Major League Baseball Winners Stadiums
- 2006 Winter Olympics Venues
- Melbourne Common Wealth Games 2006
- See the GEB Sports Category
14 de Mayo 2006
Real-time Stream Flow Sensor Net in Google Earth
The US Geological Survey (USGS) has released yet another sensor net of data with excellent visualization in Google Earth. This time their WaterWatch program has released real-time streamflow data compared to historical streamflow for the day of the year for all the states in the US and Puerto Rico. There are hundreds of sensors in this data set which tracks short-term changes (over several hours) in rivers and streams. The colors represent real-time streamflow compared to percentiles of historical daily streamflow for the day of the year. There is a legend explaining the colors, and you can click on the placemarks for more details. You can zoom down to each placemark and see where they are located in the satellite photos of Google Earth. The USGS previously released a real-time Earthquakes sensor net.
- About Sensor Nets - and the James Reserve sensor net
- USGS 1906 Earthquake Documentary
- NOAA Coral Reef Watch
- Aurora Viewing Map
- Flight Tracking
- Ocean weather data
The Tomb of Tutankhamon in Google Earth
The tomb of Tutankhamon - also known as KV62 in the archeological world - was the most intact tomb of a pharoh of Egypt ever found. It became very famous for the wealth of treasure it contained. Someone at the Google Earth Community called 'atf', who is from Zaragoza, Spain, posted an excellent 3D model and an aerial photograph of the area to help you visualize Tutankhamon's tomb.
Since Google Earth does not currently allow you to place models below the surface of land, how do you show the location of a tomb? 'atf' used a method similar to one I wrote about last month. He took his subsurface model and 'floated' it above its actual location. Look at the model of Tutankhamon's tomb , and you can see the stairs leading down to the burial chamber. A few important things to note: make sure you have the "Terrain" layer turned on and that your Preferences have "Elevation exagerration" set to 1.0; raise your altitude a bit and then double-click on "Tumba de Tutankhamon" to get a good view; If you open the folder you can see 'atf' has provided several views of the various chambers and corridor. Excellent work 'atf'!
See Wikipedia entry on KV62 - Tutankhamon's Tomb.
12 de Mayo 2006
3D Prints from Google Earth
The guys from Eyebeam Research have been doing more cool things with OpenGLExtractor (OGLE). OGLE lets you extract 3D models from any OpenGL application. and you can convert the models and put them in Google Earth (see earlier writeup). They have printed off some of the 3D buildings from Google Earth on a Dimensions 3D printer. Here you see some 3D buildings in New York City, and the resulting "print". The Eyebeam guys say in their blog they had to do a bit of manipulation to add floors to the bottoms of the models before they would print. Of course, OgleEarth mentioned this today. The 3D print made it in Make as well. Read this to learn how to see 3D buildings on top of the satellite photos in Google Earth.
Conferences for Geospatially Aware Developers
There are a couple of upcoming conferences, and a significant Google event, coming up if you are a developer of software or mashups for mapping or vitrtual earth applications and can get to the west coast of the US. All of these events will have Google Earth team members participating and sponsoring.
The first conference is Where 2.0 by O'Reilly (well known publishers of technology books) which is being held in San Jose, California June 13-14. Where 2.0 brings together the people, projects, and issues leading the charge into the location based technological frontier. John Hanke, co-founder of Keyhole, and who now heads up the Google Earth team, will be speaking.
Also, there's an important event being held the day before Where 2.0 conference on June 12 called "Google Geo Developer Day". A limited number of Where 2.0 attendees are being invited to the Googleplex (Google headquarters) to meet the Google Geo development team. They promise to make 1 or 2 product announcements. By the way, if you go you'll have a chance to meet me - I'll be there and at the Where 2.0 conference as well.
July 24-28, a conference called GeoWeb 2006 has been organized by Galdos Systems - authors of GML (Geography Markup Language). GeoWeb 2006 is the meeting point of consumer location services and professional geographic information technologies. Prominent sponsors are Microsoft, Google, Oracle, and Autodesk, and many others. Keynote speakers will include Michael Jones (CTO for Google Earth), and Stephen Lawler the General Manager of Microsoft's Virtual Earth Business Unit. Michael Ashbridge, KML Data Engineer at Google Earth, will be presenting a 3 hour workshop on KML and Google Earth interaction.
11 de Mayo 2006
Kennedy Space Center Placemarks and Webcams
The Floriday Today has recently published an online interactive Google Maps map for the NASA's Kennedy Space Center (KSC), and includes a Google Earth version as well. You will find placemarks with links to more information about KSC. Google Maps Mania just wrote this story about it:
Florida Today has included an interactive Google Map on their site which maps space launch sites at Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral. It includes a database of every launch since the dawn of the space age, shuttle and rocket launch video and images, and video tours inside facilities people usually don't get a chance to see guided by its space reporters. It also has an enhanced 3D Google Earth version you can download as well. This is a great example of a newspaper using its historical archive to create a maps mashup for visitors from all around the world.
Thanks to Mike at Google Maps Mania, for bringing it to my attention. Now we just need some enterprising Google SketchUp modelers to create some 3D models of the Vehicle Assembly Building, launch pad, and a space shuttle or two for the pad and runway.
Feature Request: 3D Video in Google Earth
I would really like to see the following features implemented for Google Earth. Last week, one of the blogs I regularly check on - Digitally Distributed Environments (DDE) - posted about an amazing feature in a really excellent new 3D panorama tool called DevalVR. DevalVR is available as a plug-in for your browser and is much better than QuicktimeVR in my opinion (download DevalVR plugin here). What is really neat is that you can stream movies into a 3D location within a panorama view in your browser!
To test the video capability, Andy at DDE created a huge screen between these two towers and inserted a video he had created. First download the DevalVR plugin, then download the panorama with 3D streaming video. After you pan around to view the screen, you simply click with your mouse on the video controls and you can watch a movie on a 3D projected screen (and listen) while panning around. Like Andy, this amazing tool just made me smile. I had seen 3D video years ago on a Silicon Graphics workstation when I worked at NASA. But, now here it was in a plug-in within my browser!
This is the kind of 3D content smarts I would like to see added to Google Earth. Not only texture map 3D models, but allow video plug-ins and VR panorama plug-ins on 3D surfaces! Recently Vlogmap.org (which I wrote about last August) released a new network link showing georeferenced videos which they call "geovlogs ". You can also still download their network link showing the georeferenced locations of video blogs . Imagine if they could instead put placemarks where their videos were made and you could view the movies on 3D "mouse-in" (instead of drive-in) movie screens? And, imagine if you could view the panoramas of World Wide Panoramas from within the 3D content of Google Earth itself?
10 de Mayo 2006
Multicup 60 - Live Sailboat Race in Google Earth
There's a fierce multihull sailboat race going on right now called the MultiCup 60 (the boats are 60 feet long). They are racing from London around Portugal, Spain and into the Mediterranean Sea until they arrive near Nice, France. They are already about 1.5 days into the race. Here is the official web site (also available in French), and here is the map they provide for showing the current positions.
Of course, I prefer the Google Earth file they have provided for showing the boat positions . That way you can zoom in and see the positions from any angle and view the more realistic satellite photos in Google Earth. Plus, you can add things like current global clouds to see what the weather is like. The placemarks provide more detail on each boat (in French) and a picture of the boat.
I have created a network link which will update their data once per hour automatically (assuming they have new data). Speaking of ads, this race is heavily sponsored by Ambassador Coffee, and you get a big one in the GE file. Thanks to Didier for contacting me about this.
Ads in Google Earth
There has been some talk recently in the blogsphere about Google Earth's ads. Some blogs seemed to be a bit confused about how to see them, and others had their facts wrong. So, I decided to write something about them.
First of all, the ads in Google Earth are very unobtrusive. In fact, they have been in Google Earth since the beginning of 2006. And, as I previously reported, if you have the PLUS version of GE you can turn the ads off. You only see the ads if you perform a localized search for a product or service. Even then, they are only seen in a subtle fashion. Ads only appear for cities where Google has business address information tied to its maps. So, for any country which has a localized version of Google Maps, you will likely find ads. So far, there are localized versions for the US, UK, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain.
To see the ads...
First, to see the ads you need to use the "Search" pane to "Fly To" a location. Entering a city like say "New York City" works. Next, select the "Local Search" tab above the search field. Now enter "What" you want to search for. Search for "Coffee" for example. You will get a list of coffee locations for New York City. Click on the various choices and for some of them you will likely see a light blue box below the normal placemark description with an ad in it. You will see the words "Sponsored Link". The ads don't always appear. If you click on the same placemark you will sometimes see an ad, sometimes not.
If you provide an address, you will get even more localized searches. In my example I added "5th Avenue" to the "Where" field and got Coffee shops only near 5th Avenue. You can pretty much search for "Coffee" and see ads for any of the countries listed above. Try "Paris" for example. You don't have to use the "Local Search", you can also enter "Coffee" in the "Fly To" window after you've flown to a location.
I believe Google is still being tentative with their ads for business/product/services in Google Earth. I'm glad that they don't in any way interfere with the user experience of browsing Google Earth and the very useful content people are producing. But, the ads are there if you look for them.
9 de Mayo 2006
Retouching Google Earth for Realism
In one of my 3D model roundups I listed a nice 3D model by 'jpwade' which added details for the Glen Canyon Dam in Arizona. Since the canyon is fairly accurately represented by the digital elevation model built into Google Earth, the 3D model makes it look very realistic - with one exception. The satellite photo of the area shows the bridge which crosses the canyon before the dam. But, since Google Earth just overlays its satellite photos over the terrain the photo of the bridge appears to drop down into the canyon.
Someone at the Google Earth Community named 'gscad2004' suggested the photo should be retouched to erase the bridge. A short while later, 'GregTSL' posted a retouched photo overlay which in fact erases the weird bridge anomaly. After downloading the 3D model above, download Greg's overlay here. Every day, Google Earth becomes more real with the addition of user input. Amazing!
Google Earth Wins Several Webby Awards
It was just announced today that Google Earth won two major Awards in the 10th Annual Webby Awards in the categories of Best Visual Design/Function, and Broadband. Google Earth also won both categories as the People's Voice Award (voted most popular) . The Webby Awards are like the "Oscars" for Internet web sites and applications. It seems a bit weird for Google Earth to get a "Webby" award, but there's no denying its one of the best applications on the planet.
Google Maps also won a well-deserved Webby Award in the category of Services, and People's Voice Awards for Best Practices and for the Services category. Apparently most people really like these apps. See the full list of awards, nominees, and winners.
Gulf Impact - Analysis of Damage to Oil/Gas Industry from Hurricanes
GulfImpact.com was just released today by the Timoney Group. Gulf Impact is a powerful demonstration of how Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita affected the Oil and Gas Industry assets in the Gulf of Mexico. Brian Timoney is a GIS professional who really believes in the power of 3D visualization and provides consulting services to businesses interested in reaching the public using Google Earth.
The Timoney Group conducted tests to determine how best to present the data. There are over a dozen layers of data including oil pipelines, oil platforms, gas pipelines, hurricane paths, before/after production rates, and analysis tools. They chose a dedicated web site with an entry choice based on the type of person entering (general audience, energy professional, geospatial professional, or you can see the entire list of layers). The bar graphs showing the 2004/2005 production rates help illustrate just how serious the damage affected the industry. Try turning on hurricane paths and the bar graphs for oil production ('04/'05) for example. I highly recommend visiting the site for the full effect though.
The most interesting tool is the "Buffer Hurricane Paths" tool. This allows you as a user to input how large an area the hurricane paths cut. And another tool lets you input your own path. You simply enter a radius and colors. The server uses GIS tools to generate a new visualization for you and immediately place it back in your GE view. Make sure you read the "Preview" which provides instructions for using this tool. It involves looking at the Places folder after you download the buffer tool, and making a change in the browser window, but is actually quite simple to use. [Note: the Timoney Group reports there are some issues with the buffer tool and the Mac Beta version of Google Earth which they are working on fixing.]
This is a yet another powerful example of how a professional can make dramatic, and useful, visualizations with Google Earth. The Timoney group also produced a visualization for Jonah Gas and a South American Trade demonstration. OgleEarth has conducted an interview with Brian Timoney which is worth reading.
8 de Mayo 2006
World's (second) Biggest Soccer Ball?
The 2006 FIFA World Cup Football semi-finals are being held in Dortmund, Germany (the sixth largest city in Germany). The city planners are hoping the football games being held here will draw attention to Dortmund. They have erected a huge 15 meter (50 feet) diameter soccer ball in a plaza near the center of the city. I found out about this through a recent post at jaunted.com. See it in Google Maps as well.
In late March, Google upgraded to high resolution satellite and aerial photos for all of Germany. The photos in Dortmund are particularly good. You can easily see the elongated shadows of people standing near the soccer ball in the winter sun. I would estimate the resolution is about 4 inches per pixel for this area. Closer inspection of the soccer ball in GE shows steps leading into the structure. I suspect this is actually some sort of museum. Anyone know more about it?
[EDIT: 15:45 - according to the first comment below, they call it the Football Globe and it is a mobile pavilion which "is touring the 12 German FIFA World Cup Host Cities giving visitors an opportunity to familiarize themselves with the topic of football culture in a light-hearted manner that appeals to the emotions." Read more. Apologies for my Americanism calling it a "soccer ball" instead of a "football".]
Mapa de Efectos de Inundación sobre Vancouver
El Capítulo sobre British Columbia Chapter del Sierra Club de Canadá ha lanzado un mapa para mostrar en Google Earth cómo sería una inundación causada por una crecida en seis metros del nivel del mar en el área de Vancouver. El mapa está basado en artículos que aparecieron en la revista Science del 24 de Marzo 2006 que proyecta subidas del nivel del mar debido a derretimiento de glaciares entre 10 metros en 100 años y hasta 10 metros en las centurias por venir, debido al calentamiento global. Vancouver podría no ver los efectos directamente, pero el Sierra Club piensa que todos deberíamos tomar medidas ya mismo para prevenir que pase lo peor.
Pueden leer el artículo aquí que habla un poco sobre los posibles efectos sobre Vancouver. O simplemente pueden descargar el mapa de predicción aquí . Las áreas azules muestran las primeras áreas en ser inundadas. Las marcas de posición indican áreas de la región con detalles de qué porcentaje serían sumergidas. Pueden utilizar el control de transparencia para ver qué queda bajo las aguas. El primer paso preventivo que sugieren es reducir las emisiones de carbono. Personalmente pienso que hay otros temas involucrados, pero, de todas maneras, sería un buen primer paso.
El Sierra Club ha utilzado Google Earth para informar acerca del Refugio Nacional de Vida Salvaje del Artico. E información acerca de una proposición del Gobierno de Estados Unidos para vender tierras públicas. Vean muchas otras historias acerca del medioambiente aquí en el GEB - Google Earth Blog.
6 de Mayo 2006
Espectacular Modelo 3D de la Unisfera para Google Earth
Un muy buen modelo 3D acaba de ser publicado hoy por 'Gerardo64' de la CGE en el Foro Modelos. Asegúrense de inclinar la imagen en Google Earth para verla mejor, luego de descargar el modelo 3D de la Unisfera . Luego de haber visto el modelo 3D, desactívenlo desde Mis Lugares para poder ver la hermosa imagen satelital de la Unisfera que es realmente bonita (para no verla tan distorsionada véanla bien desde arriba).
La Unisfera es una representación de la Tierra hecha en acero inoxidable. Está localizada en el Corona Park de Flushing Meadows, en el barrio de Queens, Nueva York.
La Unisfera fué realizada para celebrar el comienzo de la Era Espacial, y fué considerada el Símbolo para la Feria Mundial de Nueva York en los años 1964/1965. El tema de esta Feria fué la "Paz a través del Entendimiento" y la esfera representaba la interdependencia global. Fué dedicada a los "progresos humanos en un mundo que se achica dentro de un Universo que se expande".
La foto mostrada viene de 'DanTheGoogler' de la CGE quien publicó una marca de posición de la Unisfera y es una foto personal suya tomada en Agosto de 2005. Fuente - Wikipedia. Gerardo64 está enchufado con sus buenos modelos 3D de los que hablé en otro momento .
The Six Wives of Henry VIII - Google Earth Documentary
There is a forum at the Google Earth Community called History Illustrated. Occasionally, a particularly well-done collection of placemarks with detailed information is posted, which really helps illustrate historical events. In late March, an excellent collection of placemarks and overlays providing details on the lives of the Six Wives of King Henry VIII was posted by 'LuciaM'. Henry VIII's notorious treatment of his wives is well known, but few people probably know the full background on their lives. LuciaM provides a chronilogical history to each wife showing the locations of birth and other events in their lives in Google Earth and providing overlays to pictures of castles where high resolution aerial photos are not yet in GE. In addition, photos of paintings and pictures of wax likenesses are shown. Links are provided for further information. LuciaM's original post contains all the photos within the GE file. I have created a version where the pictures are downloaded as needed - which is a faster load. Download Six Wives - Original version (2.8 Mbytes), or Faster version (78 K). By the way, it's best if you open the folders for each wife in the "Places" pane after you load the model and read each placemark in chronological sequence.
The Six Wives is a very fascinating read and greatly enhanced by showing the locations in Google Earth. The last example of historical documentary I saw done this well was the story of Sir Ernest Shackleton's adventure in the Antarctic. Great work LuciaM for an excellent collection! Make sure to read her post and let her know how you like it.
5 de Mayo 2006
Ten Most Expensive US Homes in Google Earth
'PhilVerney' one of the regulars of the GEC - Google Earth Community (and a moderator) posted a collection of placemarks showing the ten most expensive homes on the US market in 2005 according to Forbes Magazine. Each placemark shows you the location of the houses in Google Earth, and many of them are in high enough resolution to see details in the satellite/aerial photos. The placemarks also contain some details about the houses, their prices, and a photo. The houses were priced at the time between US$46 Million and US $75 Million.
I'm guessing this house would be worth even more if it were ever on the market. I understand they often have lots of bunnies in the back yard.
3D Model Roundup for Google Earth
Here's a collection of some of the best 3D Models posted at the GEC - Google Earth Community during the last week or so:
- Atomium - This is a model of an actual building built for the 1958 Brussels World's Fair which is a 'unit cell' of an iron crystal magnified 165 billion times. You can clearly see the building in the satellite photo in GE, although it looks weird projected flat on the surface. Posted by 'Gerardo64' at the GEC.
- Solar Sail - This model is of a real space ship designed to fly on the Solar Wind (gases in space escaping from the sun). You can read more about it here. The model created by 'Gerardo64' at the GEC, read his post for more details.
- Space Station - This model posted by 'hwtnv' at the GEC is the space station from "2001: A Space Odyssey". He converted it from a 3D model archive located here.
- International Space Station - This model was posted by 'jpwade' at the GEC. It is not accurate to true colors of the station, but I like the idea of making space more colorful.
On a related note, 'Gerardo64' posted a nice little tutorial on how to create curved surfaces with Google SketchUp (his example is the bow of a boat). If you want to make your own 3D models, check out the new free Google SketchUp. Also, don't forget to check out Google's new 3D Warehouse network link.
4 de Mayo 2006
Aerial Photography Getting Boost from Google Earth
A recent article in the Scottsdale Times talks about the influence Google Earth, Google Maps, and other mapping tools showing aerial and satellite photography has boosted the business of aerial photographers. After you ignore the bit of sensational speculation at the beginning of the article (speculations about using aerial photography for spying), there are some very interesting points. The aerial photography business has traditionally only been accessible to firms who could afford the high cost of aerial photography which involves flying planes, processing expensive photographic and positional data, and managing huge databases. Ian Erickson of AnalyGIS says: "What Google Earth has done is put that technology up for free, to the world."
What does this mean to the aerial photography business?
You might think all this free overhead photography would negatively impact the aerial photography business. But, according to Rob Decker of AirPhoto USA in north Phoenix "Generally, imagery that you can find for free is usually much older than the images you would find in a professional application". Google Earth photos are usually 2-4 years old (some are older, and a few are less than 2 years old). If you need to see something which has changed more recently, then you will probably need to consult an aerial photography company or a satellite photography company like Digital Globe (the primary satellite photography provider for Google Earth). These companies are continuously updating their databases and may have newer data already on hand for what you need.
The cost of aerial images are priced according to currency and resolution. So, the more recent the photo, the higher the cost. But, if you are a realtor with a large number of listings you may not want to drive out to check out all the properties in your database. Having access to recent photos showing the property can be worth the cost.
Some of the aerial firms are selling their data to Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, etc. who are all offering aerial photography to enhance their mapping tools. And, now that so many people have been made aware of the value of aerial photography it seems these new free tools are actually helping grow the aerial photography industry.
GE-Path, GE-Graph - Useful Freeware for Google Earth
One of the members of the GEC - Google Earth Community named Sgrillo (his id is 'rsgrillo' at GEC), has posted two freeware applications (Windows) he has been developing for Google Earth. Sgrillo is from Ilheus, Bahia, Brazil.
The first application is called GE-Path and as you might guess allows you to draw paths and save them as KML files for sharing with other GE - Google Earth users. But, this application also lets you draw polygons, calculate areas, measure distances, and he has added a number of export options such as Excel, and comma delimited text files. The paths (or polygons) are created by placing placemarks in GE and then importing the resulting KML into GE-Path.
The second application, GE-Graph similarly allows you to put data in placemarks and it will create bar graphs. You can set graph values, colors, scales, and labels. It also supports importing and exporting options.
3 de Mayo 2006
The Aviva Challenge - Sailing Record Attempt
The Aviva Challenge is an attempt by a 33-year-old woman from the UK to become the first woman to sail solo, non-stop around the world against the prevailing winds and currents. Dee Caffari has actually nearly competed her journey which began 20-November-2005. She is just passing the Cape Verde Islands on her way back home north to the UK. Very soon she should cross her outgoing path from last December. You can read her diary entries on the Aviva Challenge web site. You can also see her current position and the path she has taken so far in Google Earth. Check out the global clouds and wind data for her current weather situation. After several months alone at sea, I can only imagine how difficult it must be passing so close to the Cape Verde islands. It must be tempting to stop and say "Hi". The company sponsoring this trip is called Aviva and is an international savings, investments and insurance group who has sponsored other sailing adventures. Best of luck to Dee and fair winds for a fast journey home.
Juicy Geography Lesson on GPS
Speaking about the need for geography lessons reminded me now would be a good time to highlight a good web site for helping educators use Google Earth and other technologies to teach geography. Juicy Geography is a web site which does just that. Recently the author of Juicy Geography has released a lesson on practical activities for using GPS units in the geography curriculum. As part of his lessons, he points out how mapping tools like Google Earth and Google Maps can be used to enhance geography education. In this lesson he points to tools for displaying GPS information in Google Earth/Maps and vice versa.
Juicy Geography is published in the UK, but I noticed he has a map showing where recent visitors to the site come from. It was encouraging to see a large percentage of visitors are coming from the US.
The Need for Geography Lessons
National Geographic has recently released a story about a survey they conducted to evaluate geography skills of young adults (ages 18-24) in the US. The results are disturbing. Here is their summary:
- Only 37% of young Americans can find Iraq on a map—though U.S. troops have been there since 2003.
- 6 in 10 young Americans don't speak a foreign language fluently.
- 20% of young Americans think Sudan is in Asia. (It's the largest country in Africa.)
- 48% of young Americans believe the majority population in India is Muslim. (It's Hindu—by a landslide.)
- Half of young Americans can't find New York on a map.
As a big proponent of Google Earth, I certainly believe all people should become more geographically aware. So, I whoeheartedly support raising awareness to learn more about geography. One of National Geographics' objectives is to try to raise awareness of the importance of geography, and they have produced a heavily sponsored web site called "My Wonderful World" to increase global learning. So, it is only natural they concentrate on publishing the negative aspects of the survey results.
As an American myself, I was at first really concerned about these results. So, I had to look a little deeper at the survey. If you read the full report (PDF) you will find some good news: 1) the majority of young adults use the Internet; 2) those who use the Internet for news score better than those who don't (and would have scored much better if they could have used Google Earth to answer questions); 3) half of the respondents said map reading skills are "absolutely necessary" in today's world; 4) Of the 20 questions in the survey, over 50% of the questions were answered correctly - or almost correct (in my opinion some of the questions were easy to miss by young American adults given how the US news media reports) - by the majority of the respondents.
Some other things to note: the maps provided in the survey did not include labels, were black and white, and resolution was not very detailed. New York is a weird state geographically and I bet respondents would have done better if told to point the approximate location of NYC. Also, many of the respondents did worse on questions about places furthest away from their daily lives such as Asia (that seems normal to me).
2 de Mayo 2006
Sightseeing Roundup for Google Earth
Here are a few interesting sights to see in Google Earth's satellite photos (mostly aviation related, but one newspaper related):
- Helicopter Rescue Training - You can see a guy hanging below this helicopter in the shadow. This one posted at the GEC by 'KnowZee1' last October. Google Maps view. More details at GoogleSightseeing.
- Location of Concordes - Fans of the world's fastest commercial airliner (now grounded) have posted the location of all 20 aircraft. See them in this Google Earth collection of placemarks.
- Antonov AN-225 - World's Largest Aircraft discovered by 'Clorius' at GEC on 19-Apr-2006, a few hours after the new data was released to GE. See details on this plane.
- Newspaper Parking Lot - An innovative newpspaper in Amsterdam decided to decorate their parking lot to look like a newspaper when viewed from above. See translations of the headlines (funny) at GoogleSightseeing.
1 de Mayo 2006
Win a Mazda CX-7 in a Sweepstakes Contest in Google Earth
Mazda has just started a contest in which you can win (US Citizens only) a Mazda CX-7 SUV by playing a simple game in Google Earth. They call it the Mazda CX-7 EarthSearch Sweepstakes. This is a little better than the Fiat contest back during the winter Olympics. In the Mazda contest you are given clues, you then have to zoom in close to look at the satellite photos of the target region at an altitude of 5000 feet or less. Then you should be able to find the hidden location.
After the first clue you are prompted to give your name and address before you can go further with the contest. Also, they only give one more location at this point and will give more locations after May 9th. This is to keep you hooked to playing the game. Whether they got the idea from Fiat or not, it's yet another example of a company using Google Earth's popularity as an advertising tool.
- Mission Impossible III
- British Army on Everest
- Adidas FIFA World Soccer Promotion
- Discovery Channel
- King Kong DVD promotion
- Fiat Torino Olympics promotion
- National Geographics
[EDIT: by the way, I'm carefully moderating the comments to only include hints - no direct answers to clues. Also, to keep the length of the comments down, I have begun excluding most comments which just say "thanks", or don't add value to the game or the story.]
Where's Tim? Tracking Tim in Google Earth
There's a popular web site called "Where's Tim?" which follows the places a guy named Tim Hibbard is going: live in Google Earth or Google Maps. Tim is using a phone with GPS. As he moves he leaves a trail of where he's been, or you can load a history for a given day. Some people wouldn't like this kind of scrutiny. But, Tim works for a company called EnGraph which sells GPS tracking software. So, it is good marketing for his employer.
Tim also has had a simple "Fly To with Google Earth" which shows a placemark of his current location on the satellite photos in GE. I sent him some E-mails and suggested he try using a GE network link to follow him interactively, and I suggested he allow history paths to be shown in Google Earth as well. He has already implemented both.
If you are on the Where's Tim main page, you will see a place to enter a date to "Get History" on the lower left. After you enter a date and hit "Go" you get an option below the date to "View History in Google Earth". This will load his track for a given date. Here's today's path for example. By the way, Tim is kind of easy to find because he lives and works in Lawrence, Kansas - the default location Google Earth starts with. via GoogleMapsMania which also links to another person being tracked with Google Maps.
- GPS Flight Logs
- magnalox - GPS track visualizations with many mapping tools
- GPSvisualizer - Power set of free tools for GPS visuallzation
- Ski Alta - GPS tracks of ski trip in Google Earth