30 de Junio 2006
Google Releases KML 2.1 Tutorial
This may have been out for as much as two weeks, but I haven't read about it anywhere. If you are a Google Earth developer, Google has released a KML 2.1 Tutorial. This is part of the June 12th announcements where they released Google Earth 4 Beta which supports the new features in KML 2.1. Just a sample of the new features are: Texture maps in 3D models, level of detail regions (so you can control detail on aerial photos (or other information) as the user zooms in/out), more efficient network links, radio button folders (allow multiple views of the same scene), and more. If you are a developer, this tutorial might give you more insight on the things you can do. Brian Flood also recently wrote a summary of some of the new KML 2.1 features.
Tour de France 2006 Starts Tomorrow
With the Tour de France 2006 starting tomorrow, I just wanted to repost a link to this excellent collection showing the routes of to all the stages of this year's TdF. This collection is being maintained at this thread at the Google Earth Community. Once you download the Tour de France 2006 GE File , you should save it in your My Places for the following two reasons: 1) the file may be updated for greater accuracy, and 2) the author plans to add some dynamic updates which will let you follow some of the action in real-time. For more details on this, check out the earlier Tour de France 2006 story.
If you're planning to go watch the TdF, you might want to find hotels near the various stages. Check out Earthbooker which lets you fly over the various stages and find hotels in Google Earth. They have Earthbooker available in several languages now. Check out Earthbooker in English , Francais , Espanol , or Deutsch .
29 de Junio 2006
San Francisco Downtown Area and King's College Chapel
These models are specifically for the new free Google Earth 4 (beta) and utilize texture mapping to add a great deal of realism to the scene. Texture maps are photos applied to 3D models so you can add great detail without slowing down the 3D rendering in the application. Done right, the models blend in with the surrounding aerial photography and look excellent viewed at all angles. However, the models can be larger files due to the additional picture data. So, they may take a bit longer to download (although probably not as much if you tried to render all that detail geometrically).
The first model was done by Planet 9 Studios and can be found on their demo page here. They have created an excellent model of the San Francisco famed Transamerica tower and the surrounding neighborhood. If you have Google Earth 4 Beta download the file here (1.6 Mbytes). [If you are using GE 3 you will see nothing when it loads.] Make sure you...
Make sure you zoom in to the base of the tower where you can see the details of the structure and photos of the windows at the street level. You can also see the street level windows of the nearby stores and buildings. A beautiful model.
Another excellent 3D model is the Kings College Chapel in Cambridge, England (3.7MBytes - GE 4 only). This model combines good geometric 3D detail with carefully done textures. It was developed and posted at the Google Earth Community by someone called 'barnabu'.
28 de Junio 2006
Amazing Airport Shown by Google Earth Team
During the Google Geo Developer Day, the Google Earth team illustrated the power of the Google Earth resolution by showing this high resolution aerial photo of an airport. You look at this and say "OK, what's so high res about that?". Well, if you look closely below the airplanes in the lower center, you will notice what looks suddenly like huge people walking by. What you are really seeing are normal sized people walking by part of a miniature version of Holland which is a tourist attraction called Madurodam in The Hague, Netherlands. Check it out in Google Earth . This Google Earth aerial imagery is probably about 3-6 inches per pixel based on other similar photos. Amazing!
1000 Pizzas Publicity Stunt Using Google Earth
Since this publicity stunt pretty much centers around Google Earth, I just had to write about it. This morning I was reading my news feeds and came across a Googler's (Google employee's) blog entry about his noticing a huge number of people carrying in pizza boxes into the courtyard at the Googleplex and taking them into a tent. He then noticed employees heading out with pizza. So the Googler went out and found out it was a company providing free pizza (1000 boxes) as a special thanks (and PR stunt) to Google. The company is called Cambrian House and you can see their web site about the pizza event here. They made a movie using Google Earth to create a ridiculous illustration of a huge stack of pizzas at the Googleplex. Pretty funny (and smart too!). Click here, or on the screenshot of the video to go watch it. One thing though - they should have used Google Video for playing the video.
27 de Junio 2006
New Features of GE4/KML 2.1
Brian Flood, author of the Arc2Earth extension for ArcGIS, has written an excellent white paper describing the new features and some possible applications of the new KML 2.1 in combination with GE4. In his write-up about the new texture mapping, he describes a live updating texture of a stock graph shown on the side of a building. Could this mean we might start seeing animated textures, or even video? Brian also describes the new feature which allows replicated models without requiring a huge KML file. This means you could create a forest of trees with just one tree model.
In my opinion, the most interesting new feature Brian describes is new KML functionality allowing more efficient network links. In the past it was necessary to reload all data for each update of a live network link. It is now possible to selectively update only the data needed. This should greatly enhance future live network link applications!
26 de Junio 2006
Aeronautical Information System
As mentioned a few days ago, Valery Hronusov, from Russia's Academy of Science, and his associates have been working on a side project to provide an amazing new visualization tool for aviators. They have used their KMLer application (which allows you to process GIS information and create powerful visualizations in Google Earth) to create a Global Aeronatucial Information System. There is a huge amount of data buried in their AIS network links . In fact, you should watch out how much you turn on at once as it will quickly slow down your computer if you load too much at once. Included are high and low altitude airways (highways in the sky), runways, lighting systems, navaids, and much more.
Apparently, Valery's team has done this on behalf of Global Imaging who are the source of the large Oracle database which contains the data. Here is their new web site for the GE version of the system they call: e:AIS. This is probably the largest databases made available in full visual form in Google Earth to date (other than Google Earth's own data of course).
Here is a summary of the data:
At the heart of the
system is an Oracle based Aeronautical Database (AISDB), organized according to the EUROCONTROL Aeronautical Information Conceptual Model (AICM), which stores feature data including Aerodromes and associated runways, services, lighting systems, and obstacles, Airspace, Navaids, Significant Points, and Routes. More details.
25 de Junio 2006
KC-135 Caught Refueling C-5 Galaxy in Mid-Air in Google Earth!
Yesterday, someone was looking around at Lava Fields in northern California, and came up with his first discovery of a plane in flight. Only, this one was a really BIG find: a KC-135 refueling a C-5 Galaxy in mid-air! It was posted by someone called "Helomech" at the Google Earth Community (GEC). This is a fantastic find and is on a par with the Lancaster bomber found flying in the UK. The refueling shot is a satellite photo. The "blue ghost" double image is actually an artifact of the satellite photo and is due to the motion of the two planes. In fact, if you look closely at cars on highways in satellite photos, you will sometimes see these ghost images for those moving objects as well. The distance of the ghosts from the actual objects is an indicator of speed.
Those of you who...
Those of you who are regular readers know one of my Google Earth hobbies is to look for aerial or satellite photos which have captured planes in flight. There are actually a number of people at the Google Earth Community who share this hobby, and there is a "database" of placemarks which show all of the planes in flight found to date. The placemark collection is constantly changing because Google updates the imagery database on a regular basis. If you find a plane in flight (or planes), you should check first to see if its already in the database. Here is a network link for the database of all the known planes in flight around the world.
[NOTE: someone just pointed out to me a farmer has cut out "USA BUSH" in giant letters in a corn field just to the northwest of these two planes. See it here. ]
- Planes in flight database
- Identifying planes
- Gliders "crashing"
- Tracking planes in real-time
- Google Earth Blog Flying Category
23 de Junio 2006
3D Buildings with Textures in Google Earth
One aspect to enhancing the experience in Google Earth is the element of 3D for the terrain. I'm still surprised how many people don't realize you can pan/tilt your view in hilly areas and, if you have the "Terrain" layer turned on, you can see the hills, valleys, and mountains you might expect in Google Earth. And, then there are the basic 3D "Buildings" layer Google provides for 38 metropolitan areas in the US. But, the buildings are just crude grey "blocks" which give you a feel for the layout of buildings in a city.
With Google Earth V4, you can now...
With Google Earth V4, you can now add textures to 3D models. The guys at the Digitally Distributed Environments blog have written about many ways to show and generate 3D buildings - including a stereoscopic 3D rendering, and using LIDAR side-looking-radar-like technology. Recently, they posted a city block in 3D with quality textures applied for viewing with the new Google Earth V4 (beta). Check out the city block here (only GE V4 - 4 MBytes). Here's what they say about the technology used to make it:
We have placed online a first draft output using our in-house software to obtain accurate height/facade data from photographic modelling. Using a camera calibrated algorithm we can ensure accurate placing of windows/doors etc to rapidly create city models.
Here are some other examples of buildings for viewing with Google Earth V4 with textures (you should delete each previously loaded set of models out of your Places before loading the next one to conserve memory - or just shut down GE V4 and restart it for the next one):
- Portion of Golden Colorado with textures (10 Mbytes) - by Chris Haller - see his blog entry. He concentrated on the front facing street-level views of these models with the textures.
- Twelve Blocks of Berkeley, California - This is part of a project to auto-generate 3D buildings from pictures, and they have now released this Google Earth demonstration. It looks excellent from helicopter distances, but the models look a little crude when viewed close-up. Very interesting stuff!
Quick Friday morning news roundup:
- You can watch a video of the Google Geo Developer Day announcements here thanks to Google Video. This includes the major announcements made at the Googleplex on June 12th. This video also includes the showcase presentations by Mike Pegg of GoogleMapsMania, and by myself of Google Earth Blog. Thanks to GEC's PhilVerney for pointing this out to me.
- Valery Hronusov from Russia's Academy of Science has been busily producing all kinds of new things again: He has released KMLer 1.2, an extension for creating visualizations from ESRI's ArcGIS software, which includes support for the recently released KLM 2.1 specification (including level of detail).
- Valery has also discovered you can drag and drop or select multiple KML/KMZ files to open in the CTRL-O/open window for GE V4.
- And finally, Valery and his associates have produced a fantastic collection of aviation related information including airways, navigation points, and airspaces for the entire world. I will be doing a special write-up on this one soon.
22 de Junio 2006
Google Does Shakespeare - Google Earth Files Available
Recently Google Books created a dedicated web site to the works of Shakespeare which includes the complete plays available for viewing online. It also includes links to Google searches in the Google Images, Scholar, Groups, and News. They even mention that if you download Google Earth you can find the famous location in England where Shakespeare's original plays took place - the Globe Theater, as well as a model of the theater. But, they don't provide a link to the model. You can find the Globe Theater in the 3D Warehouse here. (NOTE: if you have installed the new Google Earth V4 beta, download the V4 model of the Globe Theater which has textures - this makes it look more realistic). If you look at the location without the model you can see there is a real replica of the building in the aerial photo of the location and lots of tourists checking it out. There is also an excellent collection of placemarks showing the places quoted in Shakespeare's plays which I wrote about last fall.
21 de Junio 2006
New Satellite Data Now in Google Maps Too
The huge database update for Google Earth, which was first reported here at Google Earth Blog on 9-June, has now migrated to the Google Maps! At the Google Geo Developer Day, Google announced that this database update included nearly 4 times the amount of aerial/satellite photos, and now covers 1/3 of the world's population. Here's Google's official announcement on the new data. So, if your house wasn't previously found in Google Earth/Maps, you might want to check again! See also story at GoogleMapsMania. Here's the location in the photo of Simpson Bay, St. Martin viewable in Google Earth or in Google Maps.
From my original story, here's some of the places updated: Russia, China, Africa, Taiwan, USA, Canada, Bermuda, the Caribbean Islands, many islands in the Pacific, Puerto Rico, South America, New Zealand, Australia, etc., etc.
Win a Free Trip from Surfing Magazine by Using Google Earth
Download (if you haven't already) the GoogleEarth satellite imaging program from Google.com and use it to scour the Earth's remote coastlines for potential wave set-ups from the comfort of your own home. When you find a good one, make a jpg. 'frame grab' or a hard copy print out of the set-up, with the coordinates provided by Google Earth on the page...We'll choose the set-up with the most potential as a NEW DISCOVERY and, if it's yours, we'll not only set you up with a killer prize pack of shorts/sandals/tide watches/backpack courtesy of Quiksilver Travel, but we'll also take you (along with a few top pros and one of our veteran photographers) there to surf place.
Read the web page for the full details - the cutoff date is 27-August-2006 for submittals. Thanks to Frank McVey for the heads up.
20 de Junio 2006
New Volcano Layer in Google Earth
A month ago I wrote about an excellent placemark collection on global volcanoes from the Smithsonian Institution. Well, Google thought it was good enough that they have now included this collection as a default layer in Google Earth (this was part of the new layers which were updated on June 11). In your "Layers", open the "Geographic Features" folder and turn on "Volcanoes". You will get red volcano placemarks. When you click on the placemark you get excellent descriptions and photos for each volcano. You can also use the pan/tilt option in Google Earth and look at the satellite/aerial photos on top of the 3D mountain terrain (assuming you have the "Terrain" layer turned on).
Google Earth V4 - Nueva Opción Detalle de Terreno
La historia de ayer sobre Ayers Rock en Australia me ayudó a dar cuenta (gracias a algunos comentarios) de que hay una nueva característica en Google Earth V4. En la historia, mencionaba que el nivel de detalle del terreno era muy pobre para ver la forma real de Ayers Rock (o Uluru). Dos comentarios señalaron que Google Earth V4 tiene una nueva opción en "Herramientas->Opciones->Vista" llamada "Calidad del Terreno". Deslizando el control hacia la derecha se incrementa la calidad del terreno. NOTA: esto quiere decir mejorar la vista del terreno 3D, NO la calidad de la imagen satelital/aérea del suelo. Lo malo de esto es que al tener más calidad de terreno 3D, más lento se hace el dibujo de pantalla. Si tienen mucha memoria en el sistema y una buena placa gráfica, probablemente encontrarán que subir a la máxima calidad de terreno no trae problemas de rendimiento. Sin embargo, si están viendo muchos modelos 3D con la calidad del terreno al máximo, quizás deban bajarla un poco para no perder rendimiento.
NASA Lightning Map in Google Earth
A few months ago, NASA released a high resolution map showing the annual flash rate of lightning colorized by frequency for the entire Earth. NASA has several satellites for studying lightning, some of which provide real-time data and images for researchers and for practical use. I know that pilots especially find lightning data useful for spotting areas of developing storm activity where we don't want to fly.
Naturally, as soon as I saw the map, it occurred to me this would look better overlayed onto Google Earth. So, with a little bit of image cropping and overlay tweaking, I produced this annual lighning flash map overlay . Note, most intense levels are black or red. Youc an see a legend by clicking on the placemark "Annual Lightning Flash Map". You can also read NASA's scientific description of the annual flash rate map here with lots of interesting units of measurement.
19 de Junio 2006
Ayers Rock in High Resolution
During the demonstrations at last week's Google Geo Developer Day one of the many new sights seen was Ayers Rock (or Uluru) in Australia which is now available in high resolution satellite photos. Since Google was kind enough to add 4 times as many places in high resolution on June 8th, it's inevitable there are many new places such as Ayers Rock now viewable in Google Earth. I'm expecting a flood of new interesting sights such as this in the coming weeks.
Some people may notice the shape of the rock is not the same as in real life. Keep in mind that the digital elevation model Google uses is based on data from NASA's space shuttle, and they have chosen to keep the data to a manageable size for computer memory to make sure as many users as possible can view the 3D data. If they used even higher resolution 3D terrain data it might slow down the experience too much for those with slower computers. It would be nice if there were a higher resolution terrian option for those with more horsepower.
18 de Junio 2006
Pete Goss in 2006 Shetland Round Britain and Ireland Race
[20-June-2006 08:00: One of the commenters below has developed a network link for following several of the boats in this race and uses Tim's idea for showing speeds on the tracks. He says the data comes from OceanRaceTrack.com who have their own tracker here.]
16 de Junio 2006
View Google Analytics User Data in Google Earth
A Jacob Cord wrote me an E-mail that he has developed a converter to take the data collected by Google Analytics for where users are visiting your site and display the data as placemarks in Google Earth. Last summer, someone wrote their own data collecting tool which showed this kind of information, but it wasn't very scalable so it went away. A long time ago I sent suggestions to Google Analytics suggesting they support KML, and had just spoken to some people while at the Google Geo Developer Day about it. I hear there is a push to support KML in other Google products at Google, and the recent Picasa integration is just one example. You can try Jacob's Google Analytics converter here. And, here's an example showing visitors to Google Earth Blog during 13-June-2006. The user information is anonymous, but you can zoom in and see Google's best guess for where visitors came from in the satellite/aerial photos. I found it interesting that only 11 people visited from the Fairmont Hotel on June 13th. I guess everyone was too busy attending Where 2.0 to take the time to read Google Earth Blog (although, Analytics doesn't record RSS reading).
King Tut's Tomb Enhanced for Google Earth V4
Now that Google Earth V4 is out with 3D model texture support, I expect many modelers will go back and add textures to enhance their models. A month ago I wrote about GEC member 'atf' having posted King Tut's Tomb with an innovative "floating" presentation by projecting the underground chambers above the spot where the chamber exists. The area where the tomb exists was updated with high resolution satellite photos as part of the recent huge database update by Google. And now, 'atf' has added some textures to the burial chamber so you can see the paintings on the wall of the chamber. If you have installed Google Earth V4, Download King Tut's Tomb and make sure you open the folders in the "Places" pane so you can see the various views he has set up. Double click on each view until you get to the burial chamber where you will see the textures. You can download Google Earth V4 (beta) here.
15 de Junio 2006
Day 2 at Where 2.0
A full day at Where 2.0 this time, and lots of interesting things went on. Here are some things I took note of:
- SRC has released some very powerful business intelligence datasets to the public with support for almost all the major mapping APIs. See more about it at http://freedemographics.com/. Unfortunately, they are missing one of the most important APIs: KML (i.e. for Google Earth). They did a very good PR stunt during heir presentation at Where 2.0 - at the beginning of the talk they they put up a 15 minute countdown and said they would get $500 to the first developer in the audience to grab their mapping mashup interface and implement an example map with their data. Someone completed the task in 7 minutes and received a $500 check at the end of the talk. The demo of available demographic data from the free site is impressive. They also have this site: http://www.demographicsnow.com/
- NASA World Wind put on a very impressive demonstration of their 3D browser, and it was a real crowd pleaser. They certainly have been very busy adding to, and improving, the application. They use the Blue Marble satellite photos, and real-time global cloudes for their high level views, which is something you can do with GE as well (Google should build this in by default). I was very impressed with the look and feel of the client, and especially liked the plug-ins for showing 3D Mars, 3D moon, and some deep sky stellar objects. During the Q&A they were asked about Celestia and indicated they would love to be "marry" Celestia with World Wind. Maybe NASA will start offering all the features in the commercial versions of GE soon and start competing with Google? I have to say the NASA World Wind web site is very professional. I've seen commercial software products which had worse-looking web sites.
More presentations covered below.
- There's an organization called OSSIM.org (Open Source Software Image Map ) which apparently has some "Awesome Image Processing" tools. "OSSIM provides advanced geo-spatial image processing for remote sensing, photogrammetry, and Geographic Information Systems" - for free. The demo and the web site are pretty impressive. Maybe Google should look at this stuff to normalize and enhance the aerial/satellite photos they get from their data providers.
- Yahoo gave a presentation about Yahoo Local. I only took a couple of things away from this: they will have some new stuff in the next couple of months (no details given), and they now have a new blog to tell people about their activities (no URL given out). Kind of disapointing - although Microsoft didn't announce anything, they at least showed their major new features implemented only two weeks ago.
- I was told by someone at Where 2.0 that Microsoft's Virtual Earth team is on a 100 day upgrade cycle. So, the next major release for VE would be sometime in late Septemeber.
- ESRI's Jack Dangermond came up and spoke about his vision for the GIS/mapping future. As usual, he seems to have a good handle on the future of GIS. He had a couple of his people come up and demonstrate a number of things showing how ArcGIS GIS visualizations can be exported out to various mapping tools. Even a weird (why?) demo of sharing ArcGIS stuff via chat. Incidentally, Jack said ArcGIS 9.2, due out in September, will support some of the new features in KML 2.1, and in addition they will support the Virtual Earth markup languange(? - or whatever they will have for their API). Jack indicated they see themselves as mapping and virtual globe agnostic (meaning they will support any mapping or Geobrowser/virtual globe of note I guess). What I found most interesting was they didn't seem to mention, and did not demonstrate, ArcGIS explorer. But, they did run out of time before they were done. But, I expected ArcGIS Explorer would be up front and center. Will ArcGIS Explorer still be released?
- After the conference ended, Yahoo hosted a nice social hour with open bar and some food and music. I got to talk some more to the Tagzania guys, Panoramio's Eduardo Manchón, Brady Forrest (Co-chair of Where 2.0 and Chairman for next year), and quite a few other people with lesser degrees of Google Earth interest. Unfortunately, I missed meeting Tim O'Reilly, but I did watch him moderate a good panel session. He seems like a great guy.
- While at the Yahoo bash, I also had an interesting conversation with Mikel Maron, who is spearheading the GeoRSS development. We talked about GeoRSS and Google Earth's KML and his desire to see Google do more with GeoRSS. I suggested it might be better to get Google to make KML an open standard and implement elements of the still developing GeoRSS to make it easier for RSS folks to georeference. We both agreed that given the huge amount of competition between the big three (Microsoft, Yahoo, Google), it will be challenging to get everyone to agree.
- Where 2.0 was a well-attended, and very well-run conference. If you are in the web 2.0 mapping business, and the virtual globe business, I think this is probably one of the best conferences, if not the best, to attend.
14 de Junio 2006
Google Earth V4 Supports Collada - Open Standard for 3D Models
I received the following E-mail from the Khronos Group which is a member funded organization to help define open standards for APIs to communicate all kinds of information. Part of the announcement that Google Earth V4 supports 3D models with textures is that 3D models now support the Collada format.. This is a significant move. Here's the E-mail which explains a bit of the reason why:
COLLADA is an open standard for that defines an XML-based schema for 3D authoring applications to freely exchange digital assets without loss of information. http://www.khronos.org/collada
If you check out the textured 3D sample file in their KML 2.1tutorials
you will see that they include both the COLLADA .dae file and the textures in a compressed zip file. They add the geospecific data in their own xml file.
Why this is so interesting is this means you can use any of the popular 3D modeling applications including Maya, SoftImage|XSI, 3ds Max, Blender, and Sketchup of course, to create sophisticated models with textures, export them as COLLADA, and then import or drag and drop them into Google Earth.
Combined with the new KML support for LOD and streaming, you have some pretty high performance 3D visualization capabilities.
What is also interesting is that this means game developers can now start using their assets in Google Earth (the Sony PS3 will actually be based on Collada). IMHO it does not seem far off when this will enable Google Earth to beome the new Second Life but with true geospatial capabilities.
At this point, Google Earth has not implemented support for animation, shaders or physics. But these are supported in the COLLADA format., so it is likely only a matter of time.
Hope this is interesting news for you. I'm pretty excited about the whole thing.
Picasa Web Album - Geotag Photos Using Google Earth!
Last night Google released Picasa Web Album. Here's the official Google announcement. Not only does Picasa Web Album let you upload and share your photos on Google servers, but more importantly this version of Picasa lets you GEOTAG your photos with Google Earth! (NOTE: you have to sign up for the limited test, see below). You just find the place where you took your photo by looking at the aerial photos in GE (using search, the mouse, etc.), position where you took the photo and click to finish your geotag. Once your photos are geotagged, they are marked with a little geotag icon in your Picasa library so you know which ones you've already marked. In addition, the photos you upload to the Picasa Web Album are tagged as well. I haven't seen this yet, but you also get a network link so you can view where your photos were taken in Google Earth and then look at the photos with the placemarks! This is like the old Flickr geoblogger network link on steroids and built in to two of the best Google applications out there: Google Picasa and Google Earth! Amazing! Apparently this is a limited test, go to this page to sign up. I also think you will need Google Earth V4 (beta) to use the new feature (but, I'm not sure). Download Google Earth V4 here. Click the link below to get Picasa.
[EDIT 11:07PM: Stefan at Ogle Earth has posted an excellent blog entry showing how the new Google Earth geotagging feature with Picassa works. Check it out!]
13 de Junio 2006
Notes on First Day at Where 2.0
Today was the opening of the Where 2.0 conference. This conference is well organized, and the Fairmont Hotel in San Jose is a very nice location. The format of this conference is a little different from many technical conferences I've attended. They have a technique of greatly limiting the amount of time allowed for presentations. Even their big sponsors like Microsoft and Google only got 15 minute slots for their presentations. Unfortunately, I had to leave early after the afternoon break (I'll explain why below). Here's a run-down of my experiences today (this is a bit lengthy, but there's some interesting things worth reading if you want to know what's going on regarding Google Earth):
- During breakfast I saw a really classy thing - O'Reilly had a Where 1.0 map: a plain paper world map with a bunch of pushpins on a cork board. Yep, it was a really ironically pleasing thing to stick a real pushpin into a map to show where you came from to attend the conference. I'll post a picture later. Very fun!
- Microsoft's Steve Lawler, GM of Microsoft Virtual Earth gave his presentation in the first morning session. He started off by mentioning they had some significant new updates to the Windows Live Local in the previous two weeks. The new satellite photos in the UK, birds eye views in a few cities in the UK, street maps and directions in 30 countries now, and there new "collections" of pushpins feature. When Microsoft showed collections of push pins, it really seemed very weak (especially considering that there are many thousands of placemark KML collections - in fact nearly all of the ones Microsoft showed have already been done for months in GE). Steve did allude to how they are working hard to allow people to "fly" to earth destinations, and that Microsoft does in fact produce a pretty good flight simulator already. The point being they will be doing their own 3D globe.
- During the break I went to the exhibit hall. Google had a Google Earth booth showing the new version of GE and examples of texture mapped 3D models, and the new satellite photography. Skyline software (the guys who have been trying to sue Keyhole/Google were there with a booth showing their VERY similar-looking virtual globe. One thing I found interesting is they were demoing their virtual globe running within a browser window instead of as a separate application. ESRI was demoing ArcGIS, and of course ArcGIS Explorer in a booth near Google. I plan to get a demo of AGE tomorrow. I met Alan Glennon who does the Geography 2.0 - Virtual Globes blog, and had an enjoyable chat. Then it was time to go back to the sessions.
Wait, that's not all, keep reading to see more.
- A little while later, John Hanke, GM of Google Earth at Google, and Brad Schell, GM of SketchUp at Google, got up and gave a presentation of the many things that were announced yesterday. But, they did an even better job showing them. They showed the new Google Earth V4, got nearly a standing ovation for supporting Mac with Universal Binary and Linux for both GE and Google SketchUp, they showed the significance and examples of the huge new database of aerial images, and Brad built a 3D building with textures with SketchUp and blew away the audience with how easy it was. The audience was quite enthusiastic.
- I had lunch with two of the guys doing Tagzania.com, which is a really great Google Maps mashup which also has great support for Google Earth. Their company is based in the Basque country in Europe, and so it was a real pleasure to get to meet them and see them attend this show.
- A little while later Brian McClendon, Director of Engineering of Google Earth at Google, and Lars Rasmussen (who is the guy who originally wrote Google Maps), gave a presentation of the new KML 2.1 and the ways KML can work with Google Maps now. I'm sure when all of these developers get their hands on these new features there will be some really great stuff to see. By the way, Jason Birch sent me an E-mail early this morning saying he has already developed a cool application which allows you to access ArcGIS WMS GIS servers convert them into KML 2.1 (use GE V4 to see) so you can see dynamic overlays of the data in Google Earth.
- At this point, I left the Where 2.0 conference because I was invited by Michael Jones (CTO of Google Earth at Google) to his house for a social gathering of Google Earth team members and the moderators of the Google Earth Community. The moderators are some great folks from all over the world who carefully monitor posts at the GEC to make sure things are posted in the right places, and to provide help to the many thousands of people who need help with the forums and Google Earth tips. Google flew them in so they could attend the big announcement and get a chance to meet face to face. Not only are they great people, but they all seem to be regular readers of Google Earth Blog and made me blush with their nice words about the work I've been doing. It was a thrill to sit down and talk and get to know these great guys and gals. Getting to meet some of the Google Earth team members was also a lot of fun as well, and even two of the top guys at SketchUp were there as well. The Google Earth folks look like a great team who are really careful and proud of their products and I know they will continue to work very hard to continuously improve their products.
That's all for today. Look for more reports tomorrow! I already know one big thing I will be writing about tomorrow.
Official Google Blog on Google Earth Announcements
John Hanke, General Manager of the Google Earth team, has written a blog entry for the Official Google Blog about the announcements made yesterday for the new Google Earth/Maps announcements. The blog entry has a number of example KMLs in celebration of the 1st anniversary of the release of Google Earth (a little early since it was the end of June 2005 when it was released). Some of the links point to stories written here at Google Earth Blog. There are also links to downloading the new Google Earth V4, Google SketchUp, and the 3D warehouse. Make sure you check out the huge update to the Google Earth satellite photos.
Google Earth 4 - Textured 3D models, New SketchUp for Mac and Windows
Yesterday, Google announced fantastic support for 3D models in the new Google Earth V4 (beta). The 3D models for Google Earth will take on much greater realism now thanks to new support of textures. This means you can put color photos, patterns, even paintings onto the surface of polygons for 3D models. Models of buildings, people, landscapes, etc. will take on much greater realism without the necessity of complex 3D data which would otherwise take up a great deal of memory. This unleashes the full power of the free Google SketchUp modeling program.
In addition, Google announced new versions of Google SketchUp for both Windows and the Mac OSX. Mac OSX support is new for SketchUp. Not only is the free version available for the Mac, but also SketchUp Pro 5 is also available for the Mac.
The Google 3D Warehouseis already being populated with 3D models supporting textures. Look for models with textures which are marked as downloadable by Google Earth V4. You can search for "San Francisco" to see a bunch of examples.
The free Google SketchUp provides a simple mechanism for first importing a screenshot of the satellite/aerial photos for the location where you want to place your 3D models. And then, after you place your 3D model where you want it, you can easily export the model back to Google Earth. It's amazingly simple!
Google Earth Blog's Presentation KML
As promised you can now download the presentation KML I used to present at the Google Geo Developer Day yesterday. Please note that due to time constraints, I was only able to show a small percentage of the over 500 amazing KMLs I've written about in the last 9 months. And, I was not even able to show all of the KMLs listed in this presentation. But, if you saw my presentation, you will at least be able to find the KMLs you may have been interested in. I would also encourage you to do a search on Google Earth Blog to find the write-ups on these KMLs.
By the way, I also want to mention that I had a great time meeting and spending time with Mike Pegg - author of GoogleMapsMania. Mike presented a similar presentation focusing on applications of the Google Maps API and did an excellent job at the event.
12 de Junio 2006
More Detail on the Announcements
Reporting LIVE from Google Geo Developer Day in Mountain View, California. See the main announcement here.
Here are a few more important points from the announcements today at the Google Geo Developer Day conference:
- Google Maps now supports KML files. Not only can you give Google Maps the URL of a KML/KMZ file and have your placemarks displayed, but also even KML files with polygons and lines will be displayed as well. This is really AMAZING! KML has just become an even more important file format for sharing geolocation information as a standard.
- KML V2.1 is announced and supported by the new Google Earth and by Google Maps. KML 2.1 supports level of detailing for both placemarks (like has been done with Google Earth Community layers) and also for imagery. So, you can have increasingly detailed resolution imagery for an image overlay as you zoom in lower. This is really going to open up some exciting new applications.
- The HUGE new image database update I wrote about last Friday is actually even bigger than I realized. Google showed an amazing KML file showing just how big their high resolution data really is, and it just blew me away! (I hope to get a copy of that KML file). Here's some important statistics: they now cover 4 TIMES the amount of land surface. Now 1/3 of the world population is covered in high resolution. Amazing!
- By the way, turn on the new National Geographic Layers - they are now covering more than just Africa!
Major New Announcements for Google Earth
Reporting LIVE from Google Geo Developer Day in Mountain View, California.
Starting off the presentation at this launch was the three top figures at Google: Eric Schmidt, Larry Page, and Sergey Brin. From the presentation by John Hanke, general manager of Google Earth: Google Earth has been downloaded over 100 Million times since it was release a year ago. Today Google has released a new version of Google Earth - V4 (beta). This is the next generation of GE sporting a new look and feel, cleaner interface, and many new features.
Linux and Mac users will be thrilled to discover the new version of GE is now available for their platforms. First, a universal binary for Mac OS X (good for both Intiel and PowerPC versions of the Mac), And a binary for the Linux platform (ported and tested on several variations) is now available (which follows the release by Google of Picasa last month). Michael Jones, CTO of Google Earth, demoed the new version of Google Earth. It is really amazing! Also, they have native language versions of GE available for several other languages. There are amazing new features for image overlays which will let all kinds of image overlays to be displayed very efficieintly. We could even have new layers of alternate reality views of the Earth (Google Earth may yet become the Metaverse!). Too many features to discuss here, but here is one big hightlight from the SketchUp guys:
The 3D models for Google Earth will take on much greater realism now thanks to new support of textures. This means you can put color photos, patterns, even paintings onto the surface of polygons for 3D models. Models of buildings, people, landscapes, etc. will take on much greater realism without the necessity of complex 3D data which would otherwise take up a great deal of memory. This unleashes the full power of the free Google SketchUp modeling program.
There are other important announcements for the Google Maps API as well. I will report on these and other developments and the significance of these and other announcements later today.
11 de Junio 2006
New Layers Layout for Google Earth
Google has begun introducing a new organization for the layers in Google Earth. I noticed the changes on the Windows version of GE, but the Mac version so far is still showing the normal layout for the layers. In the new layout things seem to be much better organized in a hierarchical fashion. For example, there is now a "Gas, Food, Lodging" layer. When you expand the layer folder you can now select Dining by type (Barbeque, Asian, Fast Food, Indian, Italian, Japenese, etc.) and layers for gas and lodging. The Google Earth Community layer is now broken down into many sub-categories which in many ways mirror the forum categories at the GEC. For example, Military, People and Cultures, Nature and Geography, History Illustrated, etc. There are now just a few primary layers, and you can expand the folders to see the full lists This is just another example of new updates which will be a part of the announcement at tomorrow's Google Geo Developer Day. A few days ago Google released a huge database update for the satellite photos in GE.
10 de Junio 2006
RoboGEO - Simplifying Georeferencing of Photos
Last fall I wrote about this very nice software product called RoboGEO which lets you take a GPS track and photos you take with your camera and automatically georeference the photos. RoboGEO was at version 2.1. In just the last few months RoboGEO has gone to version 4.0, and just released a beta for version 4.1. See a complete list of feature enhancements. This is the best application I've used for getting location information for your photos. RoboGEO will automatically stamp your location information either into the EXIF data for your digital photos, or even interface with Flickr and generate the geo tags for your Flickr copies of your photos. RoboGEO has an excellent export capability to Google Earth. This GE file of a backpacking trip in Arizona (Note: 2 Mbyte file size because it includes photos) is just one example of RoboGEO's GE capabilities. Read more at the RoboGEO web site. RoboGEO pricing starts at just $34.95 for a personal license.
Read GEB for Announcements Next Week
Next week will be a big news week for Google Earth Blog. As has been reported, I will be attending the Where 2.0 conference which is a gathering of the makers and developers for 2.0 mapping technologies and Google Earth. Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, ESRI and all the big players in the new Internet mapping technologies are sponsoring and attending this show. In addition, Google is hosting a special invite-only Google Geo Developer Day to announce some new things for Google Maps and Google Earth, and to provide an opportunities for developers to meet with the Google teams which develop those applications. Google has also invited me to make a presentation, along with Mike Pegg of GoogleMapsMania, of a few of the more interesting applications for Google Earth and Google Maps. There will probably be many interesting new announcements, so check Google Earth Blog often all next week. I think yesterday's big release of new aerial photography for GE is just the beginning.
9 de Junio 2006
Huge Aerial Database Update for Google Earth Thursday Night!
[21-JUN-2006: The aerial photos are now also available in Google Maps]
Google made a HUGE update to the Google Earth satellite/aerial photos database late Thursday night June 8th (
not yet available in Google Maps aerial database). There are now high resolution satellite photo data strips scattered all over the world where there were previously only lower resolution data. Now you will find strips of high resolution aerial photos for many towns, cities, and even rural areas in countries all over the world including Russia, China, Africa, Taiwan, USA, Canada, Bermuda, the Caribbean Islands, many islands in the Pacific, Puerto Rico, South America, New Zealand, Australia, etc., etc. Wow! It's going to take time to absorb just how fantastic this is.
My favorite addition so far is the Caribbean islands - where they even include waters surrounding the islands so you can see sailboats at anchor (as a sailor of those areas it brought tears to my eyes!). The screenshot here is of St. Martin/Siint Maarten (two countries in one). Fly there now (or see it in Google Maps). Also, check out the Arecibo Radio Telescope (Google Maps) in Puerto Rico. Digg it!
A special thanks to 'Cyclonic' at the Google Earth Community who alerted me to the update. Cyclonic manages the database of airplanes in flight which often is responsible for discovering new database updates.
Related: Previous major update on April 18th.
8 de Junio 2006
New Improved Panoramio - Geo Photo Sharing
Early this year I wrote about Panoramio, which is a cool free photo sharing tool which was designed specifically to allow people uploading photos to tie them to a map (or Google Earth) location (see the story). Since then, Panoramio has grown significantly and has continued to refine its interface. In particular, developers Eduardo Manchón and Joaquín Cuenca wrote me recently to tell me about some very interesting enhancements to their photo upload interface. They didn't just try to improve the interface, but actually invented a better way to upload photos to web sites. The interface seems elegant, simple, and robust. You can read about the implementation in this blog entry. More importantly, you should try opening a free account with Panoramio and upload some photos. After you upload, you can then place where the photo belongs using a Google Maps interface. You can then view them in the Google Maps interface at Panoramio, or download the Panoramio GE network link and browse a world of photos on top of the aerial views in Google Earth. As you zoom into areas, photos for that area will appear as miniature icons. This is a handy way to do some sightseeing and worthy of a place in your My Places folder to turn on and off as you need it.
7 de Junio 2006
Watch a GPS Phone Being Delivered via UPS Live!
[The tracking site is being hammered by a Digg right now, so don't be surprised if you can't get in.]
This is just amazingly cool! The guy who does Where's Tim (a web site which lets you track a guy who carries his phone around with him all the time) is delivering a phone to a friend. Tim turned the phone on when he dropped it off at the shipping office a little while ago, so you can watch the phone as it's being delivered right now! View the phone track by going to this Google Maps mashup. Select the "Get History" option to see the track in Google Maps where the phone has been today (it started off on 06/07/2006). You can then choose "View history in Google Earth" to see the track overlayed in the aerial photos of Google Earth.
[Updated: the phone made it to Louisville, Kentucky before the battery apparently died last night.].
Cape Town 3D Buildings in Color in Google Earth
Last week I was contacted by the folks at Computamaps who have created a very nice collection of over 1000 buildings for the Cape Town area modeled in 3D. According to Steven True at Computamaps, the buildings are horizontally and vertically accurate to 1 meter. It works best with the "Terrain" layer turned on. They used SketchUp and SilverEye to make the building collection. SilverEye is the software by GeoTango (acquired by Microsoft last December) which lets you create 3D images from aerial photography. I especially like the fact they have chosen to make their building collection colorful (unlike the default built-in 3D buildings Google provides for big cities in the US). You can also read their post at the GEC. This collection will be even more popular in a few years when Cape Town hosts the 2010 World Cup.
Project Thin Ice - Expedition to North Pole in Google Earth
An interesting Google Earth network link for tracking an expedition has been posted for Project Thin Ice, by Greenpeace. The project is drawing attention to the danger to polar bears due to the melting of artic ice. The web site includes a blog, videos, photos, maps, and now a Google Earth file for tracking the expedition. The GE file was done by Tim Harincar who also does Sailblogs.com I wrote about earlier. There is an image overlay of the estimated ice concentration added over the satellite photos of the area. I like the way the placemark descriptions provide a brief snippet of a blog entry with a link to the actual blog entry at the web site. Also, I like the way he has used the colored bubble descriptions to add the "green" for Greenpeace. (Read here for a story on how to make colored bubbles). Great work Tim!
6 de Junio 2006
FCC Data Visualization in Google Earth
I thought about titling this story "Russians are Mining US Government Data!". But, I resisted. My friend Valery Hronusov in Russia has in fact been mining publiclly available US Government data again. Valery is the author of a GIS visualization tool for Google Earth called KMLer. He has been producing a vast range of very interesting visualizations for months. Now, he has found some excellent data at the US FCC (Federal Communications Commission) wireless site. Shown here is the American communications objects density in a 3D graph. If you open the placemarks folder you can see there is a huge amount of data contained within the graph as "slides". In his post thread , Valery posts several other visualizations include cellular tower density , TV digital towers by state , and many more.
Related - other data Valery has mined:
5 de Junio 2006
Northern Pakistan - Huge Peaks, Huge Glaciers and more
A big fan of the northern Pakistan mountain regions has put a lot of effort into documenting the area with a large collection of placemarks which include detailed descriptions. You will discover that the region is home to 5 peaks over 8000 meters in height, and over 100 over 7000 meters. Google Earth is an excellent resource for looking at this region when you use the pan/tilt features which let you view the satellite photos as they are draped over the 3D terrain. You will also find 3 glaciers each over 50 km long, and many other interesting facts. The placemark collection also shows camps for climbing expeditions, and documents many towns and villages all throughout the regions. You can turn on the borders layer and see how Google is now showing colored borders marking some of the disputed border areas. This collection was posted by someone called 'Waqas_' at the Google Earth Community.
4 de Junio 2006
Digital Camera Illustrates Camera Shot with Google Earth
At first this just looked like another advertisement for a digital camera supporting GPS. There are actually an increasing number of cameras which have features for enabling GPS (such as Bluetooth). What is interesting is if you scroll down to here, you see the company advertising this (Geospatial Experts - a photo mapping company) has a feature for outputting the Ricoh camera photos into Google Earth.
What I especially like is the example showing 3D cones which illustrate the way the photos were taken by showing the camera position, and the direction the shot was taken. Click on a placemark overlayed on the GE aerial photos, and you'll see the photo taken with the camera and links to how the camera can watermark the photos with additional information like this. Now that is amazing! (thanks to GEB reader Valery Hronusov for the tip)
By the way, if you don't have a camera that supports a built-in GPS don't let that stop you. Check out software like RoboGEO and how to georeference photos, if you have a separate GPS, and output them to Google Earth.
3 de Junio 2006
Forbes Magazine Article - Maps Mania
Forbes Magazine has recently published an article called "Maps Mania" which mentions Google Earth and Google Maps. But, the article is predominantly about ESRI - maker of the most dominant GIS Software ArcGIS. Jack Dangermond, founder and president of ESRI, is interestingly labeled as the "de facto father of the mapping field" (I think maps predate him by quite a bit). Jack once again states that: "Because of Google Earth, people became more aware of using geographic information systems (GIS)." He goes on to say GIS business has been growing very well thanks to the increased interest in online mapping and location-based information. One thing that is very clear from the article is that ESRI is investing a lot in making new technology to keep itself positioned to provide online resources for location information. ESRI's plans for ArcGIS Explorer, a 3D globe interface with many similar features to Google Earth - but, with links to ArcGIS software and databases, are critical to their future strategies. Jack says Google isn't a competitor, but I think their application is intended to be "competitive" to Google Earth in its abilities to visualize location based information using a 3D globe interface. ArcGIS will also support Google Earth's file format - KML. I'm wondering how good their database of satellite and aerial photography will be? According to Adena Schutzberg, at DirectionsMagazine, ESRI will release ArcGIS Explorer for public beta sometime this month. So, I guess we'll get to see soon.
FIFA World Cup Football Stadiums in 3D
A new blog called OrangeTea, by a Dutch Company, is dedicated to Google Earth information . They have started off by promoting a collection of the twelve 2006 FIFA World Cup football stadiums in Germany. NOTE: You have to turn off the "Terrain" layer to see them properly. The placemarks provide information on which games are scheduled to occur in each stadium. The models are a nice compromise between detail and complexity, and are placed properly so you can see the location in the aerial photos in Google Earth. The models are simple enough that they don't tax your computer, but detailed enough to let you get the feel of the stadiums. Nice work OrangeTea!
2 de Junio 2006
Weekend Sightseeing and 3D Models
There have been a number of interesting places to see in Google Earth's satellite photos and 3D models posted recently, which I've been collecting for the weekend. Check through the list below for some fun.
- Drive-In Theaters - What better thing to do on a weekend than watch a movie at a drive-in? Drive-ins.com has a Google Earth file of the hard to find drive-in theaters. Use GE to find directions, but make sure the theater is still open.
- School Bus on Roof - The St. Louis City Museum looks like an interesting place. Any museum creative enough to stick a school bus hanging off the roof has got to be interesting.
- Osaka Dome - Osaka, Japan. This is an excellent 3D model of a complex building. Look at it from the side. Posted by 'barnabu'. make sure you see his photo of the actual building.
- Arecibo - Puerto Rico, this is the world's largest radio telescope. Also seen in the movie "Contact" and in James Bond movies. It's an awesome sight I've visited myself. Posted by 'GregTSL', he had to make his own custom version of the ground since the telescope is nestled in the mountains.
- Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta - 3D models posted by jpwade. This is a beautiful event to behold. See some photos of the real events.
- National Theatre Brasilia - An interesting architectural delight in the capital of Brazil. Posted by 'pivnice'.
- Farmer's Huge Arse - That's right, a UK farmer has put up a huge arse, at least the word, in his field. For lots of other words visible in Google Earth's satellite photos, check out GoogleSightseeing's Large Type category.
Strip Clubs in Google Earth/Maps
It had to happen eventually. GoogleMapsMania just found out about a new Google Maps mashup showing stripclub locations in the US. He pointed out they have a Google Earth version as well. This is nothing more than a collection of placemarks, but its interesting because this just shows the diversity of location information being added to GE. There's also a blog about the updates being made located here. I guess this could be useful if your planning or going to a bachelor party.
1 de Junio 2006
PC World Names Google Earth Best Software of the Year
PC World has just released it's 100 Best Products of the Year. The first software product listed (in position number six) is Google Earth. Interestingly, Windows Live Local is listed number 39, Yahoo Maps is listed number 56. But, Google Maps doesn't even make it on the list - which just doesn't seem right. PC World describes Google Earth as a "Satellite Mapping Service". Not the best description, but I'm glad to see Google Earth get even more accolades.
Avian Flu Outbreak Map Update - Human Cases in Indonesia
Declan Butler, Senior Editor at Nature, has posted a new update to his Avian Flu outbreak map for Google Earth. This outbreak map is an excellent resource, allowing you to see the locations in detail in GE's satellite photos, and view an overview of the outbreak over time. Make sure you explore the options in the Placemarks pane once you download it so you can turn on the entire history of the cases, both human and animal. When he last posted an update we noted a decrease in the rate of new cases. This month the notable addition is the human cases in Indonesia. Declan has also posted a detailed blog entry about the challenges of managing a potential pandemic outbreak in a developing country like Indonesia.
Tagzania Provides Google Maps with KML
pyramids of giza tagged map - Tagzania
Tagzania has added a feature Google should have added a LONG time ago to Google Maps. A KML button to take your current view in Google Earth (plus the Tagzania push pins) and view it in Google Earth. Luistxo at Tagzania mentioned this to me a couple of days ago to let me try it out, and he just posted a blog entry about it. The neat thing is, with Tagzania you can easily take a map you like and paste it in your own site. So, for example I've included a Tagzania map of the tag "Giza" (so you can see the main Giza pyramids in Egypt). You could also just use this link: http://tagzania.com/tag/pyramid+giza. Click on the KML link and you can see them in Google Earth as well. You can choose whether to show satellite photos, maps, or hybrid; or choose what controls to show; and even adjust the size and width of the map for viewing on your page. Tagzania is an amazing mapping mashup, and now has the best Google Earth integration out there!