30 de Diciembre 2006
Summary of Google Earth Imagery Updates 2006
During 2006, Google made a substantial investment in adding new imagery to the Google Earth/Maps imagery database. Google hasn't released the numbers, but I think the significance of the data made available for free is truly astounding. We're talking millions of square miles/kilometers of high resolution sateillite/aerial photos all over the planet. A year ago there were many countries and most tropical islands with little or no high-resolution data. Now, virtually all countries and most tropical islands are graced with beautiful views. In the June update alone, Google did reveal they had reached a milestone of covering one-third of the world's population centers in high-res. They may be approaching one-half by now since there were several updates since June. If you haven't looked at Google Earth recently (because your house wasn't there) then check it out now.
In fact, this year, Google had SEVEN significant imagery updates and at least 3 minor updates (although Google says there are many unannounced minor updates). Here's a list of the updates covered by this blog (with some details on the locations):
- 9-February - For the Olympics in Torino, Italy - minor update
- 23-March - Major update
- 31-March - Las Vegas in very high (3 inch) resolution
- 18-April - Significant update
- 9-June - Largest update of 2006 - Many new areas
- 3-August - Discovery of several minor updates
- 8-September - Major update
- 3-October - Major update
- 23-November - Significant update for Thanksgiving
- 17-December - One more significant update for the holidays
29 de Diciembre 2006
Play "Mars Sucks" Game in Google Earth
The game concept called "Mars Sucks" was put together by an Intel team which I wrote about in an article earlier today. Virgil at Destinsharks.com has set up a server and you can play the game now. All you need to do is download this network link . Move to the country described by the clues on the lower left and move over the spaceship which will appear there. You need to make four tiny movements over the ship (so it is in the gun sights). After a 1 second pause the guns will fire. Four shots destroys the "evil" martian spaceship. Then you get new clues. Check it out. And thanks to Virgil for setting it up.
Mars Sucks - A Game for Google Earth
An Intel Team focused on gaming technology spent some time developing a video game concept using Google Earth. They describe the concept in an article on Gamasutra this way:
Martian robotic spacecraft are invading Earth and sucking up humans for experiments! We were able to capture one Martian spacecraft, which we need you to pilot in an attempt to blast other Martians out of our atmosphere. The Martians are being sent messages that direct them to their next target. Your mission is to decipher the messages, and blast these Martians before they can suck people off the planet. Stay tuned for intercepted Martian messages!
The Intel team then turned out some code to implement the basics of the game which they describe in this 4-page article. They didn't go so far as to implement real game play or sounds. But, they are giving away the art and source code hoping someone will take it to the next step. One of the main problems they encountered is being able to detect when someone presses a key in GE so the software could fire the spaceship gun . To get around this, a gamer moves the Earth to the location and pause for a second and the gun fires. They are looking for ideas on how to get around this.
I haven't had the chance yet to set up the code and test it. If anyone has done this, and has set it up on a server for testing, please let me know what it was like - or share a YouTube video. via Blogsearch.
Here's a list of other games with Google Earth:
- German GE Christmas Game
- Battleship Google Earth
- Win a Mazda CX-7
- Mission Impossible III Game
- Find Skull Island
- CNET Superbowl Guessing Game
- Adidas Promotion Using Google Earth
- Google Earth Hacks War
28 de Diciembre 2006
Multilingual Wikipedia Project Linking to Google Earth
Last year a project was begun to link Wikipedia to Google Earth. At the time there were only a few thousand articles with georeferenced information, so it seemed rather sparse. But, now hundreds of thousands of articles are georeferenced in the Wikipedia. The project started last year now not only has 350,000+ articles available, but they also allow you to switch to one of 11 languages and you get placemarks for articles in that specific language. They also have selected different icons for different categories of articles to give placemarks some context. Here is the network link for Wikipedia . To change the language you edit the properties of the network link and change the two-letter language code as described in the instructions. The project was posted to the GEC by 'kolossos' (one of the project leaders), and thankfully they posted an update on its status which brought it to my attention.
There have been a number of efforts linking the powerful multilingual resource of the Wikipedia to Google Earth. Most recently, Google released a layer under the new Geographic Web layer which shows Wikipedia placemarks and the descriptions show a nice part of the summary and photos from the Wikipedia page. Also, one of my favorite network links for GE is to the Wikimapia project (primarily used with Google Maps, but you can see the data in GE). I like the Wikimapia version because the rectangles outlining an object in the aerial photos give some visual context to the object being described. But, I think all three of these methods of viewing Wikipedia data are valuable.
27 de Diciembre 2006
Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race in Google Earth
[NOTE 27-Dec: The network link seems to be having reliability issues today.]
The official site of the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race is again supporting Google Earth to track the race. The race began on December 26th and the positions are updated every ten minutes. The route goes from Sydney, Australia to the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania. This yacht race has been going on for about 60 years and has often been in the news. You can download the Sydney Hobart Yacht Race Google Earth network link and follow the race right now.
24 de Diciembre 2006
Google's Santa Tracker Shows Same Position as NORAD Tracker
[UPDATE Christmas Day: Santa finished his deliveries, so this tracker's job is over. But, you can read this article and see a map of his approximate route.]
Google has a Santa Tracker for Google Earth which automatically updates every 20 seconds with Santa's current position. Make sure you have the latest version of Google Earth 4 installed (download here). You will see Santa, his sleigh, and reindeer (including Rudolf!) over the current city/country he is visiting. For verification, you can see that his position as seen in Google Earth is accurately synchronized with the NORAD Santa Tracker as well.
22 de Diciembre 2006
3D Toy Animations in Google Earth, Happy Holidays!
By the way, between Christmas and New Years I will not be writing many blog entries (only if something significant grabs my attention and doesn't require too much time to write about). I'll be enjoying the holidays! Happy Holidays to everyone!
21 de Diciembre 2006
Amazing Implementation of Marine Charts for Google Earth
DestinSharks.com is a blog mostly about boating and fishing in Florida waters. But, it's author is a big fan of Google Earth technology. A few months ago he wrote an application to show tide predictions in GE for example. A few weeks ago, he started showing me his pet project for the last few months. He has been developing a way to show detailed marine vector charts in GE. These charts are colorful and beautiful!
DestinShark's technique uses KML regions to help declutter the detail as you zoom out and bring the detail back in as you get in close. So, for example, when you get close enough you get buoys, lights, and even depth numbers. He is using the NOAA ENC vector charts covering US waters. So far he has completed a few of the 600 or so charts available from NOAA, and has released these charts for beta testing. Read the details here, and sign up for the beta test to get the network link. I highly recommend you check this out if you are into KML and/or cartography. If you are into marine charts, I think you'll be excited to look at these charts for your waters once he gets the rest of the 600 charts done.
News Roundup - Google Integration, Panoramas Coming, Norway Search
- Google Integration - Many of us who are regular bloggers of Google applications have been clamoring for more integration between their applications. For example, I believe Google Calendars, Search, Maps, etc. should all have KML buttons for any item related to a location. While at the AGU conference last week, I learned that Valery Hrosunov not only believes in the integration, but is taking matters into his own hands. For months Valery has been helping the developers of EditGrid (a collaborative spreadsheet application) to perform all kinds of amazing things to generate KML (see story at OgleEarth). Now, Valery has started releasing work he has been doing to help Google Spreadsheets & Docs have GE integration. By the way, Tagzania has added KML buttons to their version of Google Maps months ago. Why hasn't Google done it?
- Panoramas Coming - Digital Urban has been working on a way to view panorama photos within Google Earth using what looks lie a 3D Sphere with the photo as a texture you can view from inside. This looks like it will work really well if you have a SpaceNavigator (which makes it easy to fly into and turn around inside). See YouTube demo here:
- Norway Search - Someone noticed that a search for "Norway" ends up with a location in the middle of Sweden. Stefan at OgleEarth reports on this "shocking" news. He also points out it probably has to do with the search algorithm for countries based on the shape of the country (it looks like it uses the NE and SW corners of a country and picks a point in between). E.g. If you do a search on Croatia you get Bosnia. Google should probably write a few exceptions in their search results for the countries where their algorithm doesn't work.
20 de Diciembre 2006
Top 10 Time Animations from 2006 in Google Earth
Time animations are a new capability Google added to the Google Earth 4 beta in late summer of this year. When someone simply adds time stamps to KML content, a slider appears in the interface which allows you to control the interval of time you are viewing. Google has taken care of automatically animating the content whether it is placemarks, polygons, lines, image overlays, and even 3D models. It's the fourth dimension done right!
This is GEB's list of the top 10 time animations viewable with Google Earth 4 (version 4.0.2091+). I recommend you delete the folder containing each time animation after viewing it to free up memory before loading the next one. Animations with 3D models or image overlays can consume a lot of memory. But, these animations are definitely worth viewing. They are listed in chronological order as to when they appeared in this blog. You may want to read the blog entries for each for more details and instructions.
- Avian Flu - By Declan Butler of Nature Magazine - blog entry
- Hurricane Katrina - By Brian Flood - blog entry
- Growth of Buildings in London - By 'barnabu' from GEC - blog entry
- Paleogeographic Animation - By Valery Hrosunov - blog entry
- Earth on Fire - By Valery Hrosunov - blog entry
- Clouds of Jupiter - By 'barnabu' - blog entry
- Blue Marble Time Animation - By Frank Taylor and Barry Hunter - blog entry
- Ferris Wheel - By 'barnabu' - blog entry - NOTE: if you are using the latest GE beta - see this version
- Paddle Boat - By Joey Wade - blog entry
- Edmund Fitzgerald - by Joey Wade - blog entry - NOTE: if you are using the latest GE beta - see this version
19 de Diciembre 2006
Top 25 Stories from Google Earth Blog for 2006
As the year closes, here is a look back at some of my favorite stories from Google Earth Blog (out of nearly 600 blog entries) from 2006. Some of these stories were pivotal points in the development of Google Earth, others were significant illustrations of some important event or place, and still others were just fun things someone found or did in Google Earth. Even if you are a regular, you may find looking at some of these a refreshing look at significant points in the history of Google Earth of 2006.
The list is in approximate chronological order:
- French Watercolors
- Google Releases Very High Resolution Imagery for Las Vegas
- Google makes Sketchup Free!
- Helicopter Shortly Before Crash
- USGS Releases Awesome 1906 Earthquake Documentary
- Ski Snowbird
- Tour de France 2006
- Huge Aerial Database Update for Google Earth on June 9th!
- KC-135 Caught Refueling C-5 Galaxy in Mid-Air in Google Earth!
- Huge Scale Model of Disputed Border Region of China
- Earth From Above
- Moon Trees
- Firefox Crop Circle
- Educational Uses with Google Earth
- Categorized African Animals in High Resolution
- Visible Shipwrecks Around Google Earth
- Google Earth 4 Time Feature Released
- Capsized Cruise Ship
- Wikimapia Does Google Earth!
- Same Day Aerial Photo
- Amazon Indians Using GPS and GE to Protect Rain Forests
- Blue Marble Time Animation
- End Mountain Top Removal Campaign
- YouTube Demo of SpaceNavigator
- Blue Marble Add-on Version 2.0
Amazing Picture of Santa Found on Earth
[NOTE: This collection was actually conceived, drawn, and originally posted by 'ear1grey' at the GEC. Valery35 (who I originally credited with the discovery) was just reposting it for fun it turns out. So, I've modified the story to give proper credit.]
Last year, one of the Google Earth Community members called 'ear1grey' posted an amazing discovery. He found a huge picture (36 miles tall) of Santa. He made a nifty Google Earth file for kids so they could go find the Santa by following the red nose of Rudolf the reindeer. Download this file and then turn on the "Little world" in your "Temporary Places". Look in the nose of Rudolf for Santa.
18 de Diciembre 2006
Update on NASA/Google Press Briefing
I managed to get in on the last 15 minutes of the NASA/Google Press Briefing. See my notes based on just the press release here. Here are some interesting details I gleaned from the briefing:
- This agreement is based on similar partnerships NASA has with many private companies based on provisions called the "Space Act". The act specifically allows NASA to work with private entities to expand on projects or data analysis where the projects are in line with NASA's mission to share the data with the public.
- NASA and Google pointed to the Global Connection Project as a model for the type of relationship they envision. The Global Connection project has resulted in many technologies and shared data (like the Hurricane Katrina imagery, and the National Geographic layers in Google Earth). Google helped fund the project which included people from NASA, Google, National Geographic, and Carnegie Mellon University. I guess its possible NASA would also put money in on some projects which were in line with their funded projects. Google emphasized their objective would be to make the results freely and universally accessible.
- Google still plans to lease a large amount of real estate at the NASA Ames Research Center (a million square feet of office space). But, specific numbers of people involved with NASA projects has not been determined. It was mentioned between a dozen and two dozen Googlers have been involved with projects at NASA so far. Several projects are already in progress.
- The intent here, according to Chris Kemp of NASA Ames, is to align NASA's mission of conducting space exploration and sharing the data with the public with Google's mission to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful. A big objective here is to allow Google to use its best skills on NASA's data.
NASA and Google Sign "Space Act Agreement"
Google and NASA's Ames Research Center have signed a "Space Act Agreement". The agreement is to formally establish a relationship to work together on a variety of challenging technical problems. Since NASA Ames research center is very close to Google Headquarters it is natural they would look to work together. I was planning to get more details on a press briefing I was invited to attend via teleconference, but the conference filled up well in advance. Here are some highlights from NASA's Press Release:
... Google and Ames will focus on making the most useful of NASA's information available on the Internet. Real-time weather visualization and forecasting, high-resolution 3- D maps of the moon and Mars, real-time tracking of the International Space Station and the space shuttle will be explored in the future.
And here are comments from NASA Administrator Mike Griffin:
"This agreement between NASA and Google will soon allow every American to experience a virtual flight over the surface of the moon or through the canyons of Mars," said NASA Administrator Michael Griffin at Headquarters in Washington. "This innovative combination of information technology and space science will make NASA's space exploration work accessible to everyone," added Griffin.
The PR guys really picked a simplistic quote for this one. NASA and Google are both already allowing virtual flights through World Wind and Google Earth. Some better comments from Google CEO Eric Schmidt:
"Partnering with NASA made perfect sense for Google, as it has a wealth of technical expertise and data that will be of great use to Google as we look to tackle many computing issues on behalf of our users," said Eric Schmidt, chief executive officer of Google. "We're pleased to move forward to collaborate on a variety of technical challenges through the signing of the Space Act Agreement."
One of the architects of this agreement at NASA Ames, Chris Kemp, was quoted:
"We've worked hard over the past year to implement an agreement that enables NASA and Google to work closely together on a wide range of innovative collaborations," said Kemp. "We are bringing together some of the best research scientists and engineers to form teams to make more of NASA's vast information accessible."
What is missing so far are specific objectives. They originally proposed forming such a relationship over a year ago. I guess it takes a while to work out details on a partnership of this magnitude. Many divisions of NASA have already been working independently to put data in Google Earth and World Wind. But, hopefully this will stimulate even more rapid and far reaching visualizations of NASA's vast archives of data.
Top 10 New Google Earth Features of 2006
As the end of the year approaches, Google Earth Blog would like to highlight some of the best Google Earth-related news of 2006. Today we'll highlight some of the best features introduced to Google Earth this year:
- Time Animation - Adding the 4th dimension to GE 4 was my favorite new feature added to the program this year. The innovative applications already developed are just a taste of what is to come. See the Blue Marble time animation, or the animation of building growth in London.
- SktechUp and Textures with 3D models - Google made a free version of SketchUp available which integrates with Google Earth. And, with the release of the GE 4 beta supported 3D models with textures. Textures provide the ability to add photo-realism to 3D models. And GE 4 supports a new standard for 3D model file formats called Collada.
- Enhanced Network Links - Network links are like live updating URL links to other servers while viewing GE content. Google has wisely continued to refine the performance and functionality of one of their most powerful features for GE. This has enabled things like live tracking of airplane flights, automatically updating global weather.
- Support for Mac/Linux/Windows - The fact that Google supports GE on Windows, Mac, and Linux is fantastic. No other virtual globe in 2006 supports all these platforms.
- Google Earth 4 - While many new features were introduced as part of the GE 4 beta, one thing I would like to point out is that GE 4 introduced a consistent look and feel between the different platforms (Mac/Windows/Linux). This was a smart move, and is one of the better features introduced this year by itself.
- New Feature Line-up - Late this year Google re-arranged their feature line up. Now, the free version of GE includes line and polygon drawing capabilities. And the Pro version of GE now includes the movie making module and other features which formerly cost hundreds of dollars more.
- Controller interface - You can now hook up your game controllers and other input devices (like flight simulator yokes) to GE 4.
- Imporoved layers interface - This year Google enhanced the layers interface with nested folders and added the ability for radio-buttons in a folder so you could selectively choose one feature from a list. These improvements were necessary since Google added so many new layers to the built-in layers of GE.
- Huge Amounts of New Imagery - Google added millions of square miles of new imagery to Google Earth during the year. The biggest updates were in June and September. Hundreds of millions of people are now able to see their house, and other really interesting things, in high resolution which weren't able to a year ago.
- Huge Amount of New Layer Data - This is probably one of the most overlooked features of Googel Earth. The layers (found in the lower left pane in the GE interface) provide access to many megabytes of data on everything from points of interest around the world and Wikipedia articles to videos, GPS tracks, National Geographic magazine articles, and more. The new "Featured Content Layers" help highlight GE content from external sources.
17 de Diciembre 2006
New Imagery Update for the Holidays - Awesome!
Google not only updated the Google Earth 4 beta this weekend, but just today released a huge imagery update. And guess what? Google Earth Blog now has its own aerial photos included within Google Earth. You'll find a couple of aerial photos I took in a small plane during the X PRIZE Cup in October at the Las Cruces, New Mexico airport (read about the photo here). And also a couple of practice photos I took of the Sanford - Lee County airport in North Carolina (see here ). Even the copyright message says "Google Earth Blog". Pretty neat!
In addition, Google added a 3 meter resolution terrain mesh for Mount Saint Helens (much higher than what you normally find - you should use the "Tools->Options->Terrain Quality" setting to adjust the quality).
Here's the announcement at the GEC about the imagery update:
- Digital Globe updates all over the globe with the most notable being large content additions in Somalia and Australia
- Updated US states: Indiana and Delaware
- Miscellaneous high res cities and counties in North America: Monterey Bay, CA; Yakima County, WA; Summerland, Canada; Greater East Wenatchee, WA; Polk County, IA; Warren County IA; and Bay County, FL
- Small high-res updates in the UK (Swansea, Edinburgh, Doncaster, Gwent) and expanded London coverage
- High-res update in Bremerhaven, Germany.
- Newer imagery for Lanzarote (Canary Islands)
- Google Earth Blog-supplied XPrizeCup flyover and the Sanford, NC airport
- Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
- Foo Camp @ O'Reilly Headquarters in Sebastapol, CA
16 de Diciembre 2006
New Google Earth 4 beta - 16-December-2006
Google has just released the latest beta for Google Earth 4 today (December 16th). Windows and Linux - version 4.0.2693, Mac - version 4.0.2694. Here are the release notes posted by 'ink_polaroid' at the GEC. Note: there are some great improvements in here. Also, the new touring feature mentioned is really cool. It will automatically pop up placemark description bubbles as you tour through each placemark. This gives you an almost script-like presentation capability.
Release notes:The bug which affected the Blue Marble Add-on has been fixed. I will be posting a new version which won't require the little hack I had developed to fix the bug.
- Progress indicator for loading network links and models
- Real-time GPS tracking using NMEA (Plus, Pro and EC)
- Greatly improved performance for collada models (textured buildings)
- Tours can display balloons (Tools->Options... then "Touring" tab)
- Driving directions and touring allow a greater range for typed values
- Mac movie-maker supports many more compression formats
- Icon palettes are deprecated (no more root:// for the styles)
- Improved performance on network link hierarchies
Major fixes since last beta:
- Improved compatibility on shared memory architecture ATI graphics cards with older graphics card drivers
- Improved success rate of log in over unreliable connections
- Fixed offline mode in Pro
- Numerous GPS fixes (including GPX import)
AGU Virtual Globes - Days 2 & 3
The return from San Francisco to North Carolina was long, but uneventful. Here's a summary of highlights from days 2 and 3 of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) special sessions on Virtual Globes. Here is the list of presenters from the sessions. Days 2/3 were all poster sessions. The guys who organized these sessions managed to get display projectors so most of these presenters not only had posters, but also were able to demonstrate their virtual globe data. There were too many sessions for me to summarize each one, but some may get stories in the coming days.
An interesting observation is that I spoke to scientists who have been using Google Earth from NOAA, NASA, USGS, Smithsonian Institute, International Polar Year, and several Universities. All of them have found Google Earth a valuable way to share their data, and all of them are planning to do more. Another encouraging sign was that there were some educators presenting who have used Google Earth in the classroom and found it a valuable way to open the doors into the minds of students for science. And many scientists are using GE for educational outreach. Scientists were coming up to Google and other presenters and asking for tips on how to get their data into GE. I expect I will have a lot more to write about next year from the science community.
On both days, several folks from Google attended as either presenters or as attendees. Members of the GE team came and asked presenters and other interested attendees for input on improvements. A couple of common topics were the need for subsurface rendering (i.e. drawing caverns, drilling, under sea bathymetry in 3D, etc.), and another was the need for scripted tours with annotations and multimedia (audio/video).
On Wednesday, someone famous in the GE Community was presenting: Valery Hronusov (aka Valery35 in the GEC) who lives in Perm, Russia. Unfortunately, Valery is still learning English and my Russian is really inadequate. The folks at Google think very highly of the many contributions Valery has made with innovative applications for Google Earth. In fact, they found an interpreter so they could talk to him and invited him to the Googleplex on Friday (and planned to have an interpreter there). I only managed a small conversation with him directly, but his enthusiasm and abilities were clearly evident. I hope he really enjoyed his first visit to the US.
An interesting discussion was held on Wednesday between Patrick Hogan of NASA's World Wind (WW) project and Brian McClendon who is Director of Engineering for Google's Earth and Maps projects. The discussion mostly centered around interoperability of data using KML. NASA currently has left support for KML to be done as an add-on for WW and it has limited functionality. Brian asked why they don't support KML officially. Patrick's response was interesting. He indicated they are supporting open standard interfaces such as WMS and WFS. Patrick indicated they would like to see KML made a standard. Brian indicated Google is considering putting KML up as a standard, but the standards process has a tendency to damper innovation and Google feels the virtual globe applications are evolving too rapidly to be constrained by a standards process at this stage. Brian also pointed out that WW needs interoperability with more datasets (i.e. KML) if it wants to gain users. Someone from a university setting asked Brian what to do if they needed functionality not available in either GE or WW. Brian immediately pointed out that since WW is open source, they certainly could turn to WW to implement new functionality. In fact, he made it clear GE is designed to support a broad audience and is necessarily restricted in its ability to be customized and that WW serves a valuable role for those situations requiring customization or non-Earth applications. In my opinion, this was a healthy discussion. Although, I believe NASA WW and Google GE people need to sit down and discuss interoperability more thoroughly.
On Thursday, Rebecca Moore from Google was presenting. She is the same person who got the attention of the media after Al Gore supported her efforts to stop a logging project near Los Gatos in California. Environmental concerns were a common topic at this AGU conference, so Rebecca was a popular presenter. In fact, I made sure to introduce Rebecca to the folks organizing the International Polar Year (which starts in March of 2007) because the IPY would like to see their data included in GE. As expected, Google seems quite open to accepting input from such a large international project. Especially when it was pointed out that Stefan Geens of OgleEarth has been working on the IPY GE content development. I also got to meet several members of the GE Layers team and I made sure to thank them and talk to them about the layers. As I've said before, I think the layers are a vast treasure-trove of data which is under-utilized by many GE users. We talked a bit about ways to improve the interface.
I managed to get myself invited out to the Googleplex one day and see the new offices for the Google Earth and Maps teams. They had to move earlier in the year due to growth. Well, it appears they are outgrowing the new location as well (geo job hunters take note). It was nice speaking with Michael Jones (Chief Technologist for Earth) and meeting many members of the GE team. Many of them immediately recognized my name and told me they read my blog on a regular basis. Wow! Special thanks to Lrae who gave me a nice tour and "bought" me lunch at one of the 5-star free cafeterias.
Special thanks to the organizers of the AGU Virtual Globes sessions. It was a great idea to pull these presentations together under a common theme, and I hope they do it again next year. One thing which was abundantly clear to me is that Google Earth is going to get even more exciting in the coming year. So, stay tuned!
15 de Diciembre 2006
Interesting Satellite Visualizations for Google Earth
One of the Google Earth Community (GEC) members called 'pseabury' (Paul Seabury) has published a number of KMZ files containing visualizations for a number of satellite types (Iridium, amateur radio, Globalstar, disaster monitoring, military, geodetic, geostationary, and more). Each collection shows the satellites, their footprints and cones, their subsatellite points, and their orbital data in the info balloon. They look really cool in Google Earth (as seen in the screenshot). Check out the one for the Iridium satellites for example. Or, try the GPS satellites which are in orbits 12,600 miles above the Earth. You can find all the different KMZ files for different types of satellites as separate posts in this thread. The first post contains a zip file with a program for running the satellite updater he wrote (read more details in another post in the thread). Paul also did the Tropical Data network link useful during hurricane season which I first wrote about over a year ago.
14 de Diciembre 2006
Quick News Roundup: German GE Xmas Game, Wikipedia layer, AGU Day 2 Quick Summary
Have only a few minutes today to write - I will probably end up catching up on details about the AGU conference this weekend. Here's some quick news:
- German GE Christmas Game - Thomas Overbeck of the German Google Earth site ge-hilfe.de, has set up an interesting Google Earth treasure hunt game at globezoom.info. The most important part: you can win a SpaceNavigator! They have a Christmas game right now. You download a network link which will help give you clues as you explore the Earth until you find the treasure.
- Wikipedia layer - John Gardnier writes at the Google Earth User blog about the new Wikipedia layer and how to get a Wikipedia story to appear in the new GE layer.
- AGU Day 2 - Day 2 at the AGU conference session on Virtual Globes was more about meeting people and listening to interesting discussions as folks gathered around the virtual globes poster sessions. I got to meet the respected 'Valery35' (Valery Hrosunov), who I've written about many times at the GE Blog. This was a great chance to meet members of the Google Earth team - seven or eight Googlers were present pretty much all afternoon. They were actively soliciting people for ideas on how to improve Google Earth in future versions. There was an interesting discussion between Google and NASA on GE and WorldWind (more on this over the weekend). Went to dinner with members of the GE team members and a few GE community memebers including Valery. There was a comedy of fortunate circumstances which made this dinner truly special - for example, it seemed nearly everyone who came by the table spoke Russian which truly delighted Valery. More on this later as well.
13 de Diciembre 2006
Virtual Globes Sessions at AGU - Day 1
The American Geophysical Union is holding their fall meeting in San Francisco this week. The number of scientific papers and presentations at this event is overwhelming. Over 12,000 scientists, engineers and technologists are attending and from looking at the program it seems almost everyone is presenting. The reason I flew here from North Carolina was to attend special sessions organized on the topic of Virtual Globes (like Google Earth) where scientists are presenting examples and reasons why virtual globes are a powerful way to share scientific data with the public if it relates to the Earth (or other planets).
The Virtual Globes sessions have been organized by a group of scientists and researchers who apparently work together on some projects in Alaska: John Bailey of ASRC, Matt Nolan and Jon Dehn of University of Alaska at Fairbanks, and Luke Blair of the USGS.
On Tuesday, the first day of the sessions, there were several presentations on the subject of Earth Sciences for education using virtual globes. One thing that was immediately apparent is that the use of virtual globe technologies is very popular in the science community. This was a standing room only session all afternoon. Furthermore, although some of the talks discussed other virtual globe software, the popularity of Google Earth was readily apparent as every speaker mentioned Google Earth in their presentations. Also, Google had two different presentations (one on Google Earth for science, and one on the integration of KML with multiple mapping tools).
The education focus of the session, combined with a strictly enforced 15 minute limit, kept the presenters from going into a lot of detail. I was left wishing each presenter had twice the time alloted. Hopefully, more detail will be available in the poster sessions on Wednesday and Thursday. Here are some highlights from the sessions:
- Tim Foresman, the first speaker, worked at NASA when the Digital Earth project was started after a speech by Al Gore in January of 1998. Tim announced that the 5th International Symposium on Digital Earth will be held in San Francisco on June 5-9. The previous symposium was held in Beijing, China.
- Pat Hogan from NASA's World Wind project presented their latest plans. The free NASA World Wind is a virtual globe for not only Earth, but also other celestial bodies like Mars and the Moon. Their product currently only runs on Windows, but they are actively working on a Java version which will run on other platforms (like the Mac and Linux).
- Bruno Bowden of Google was next. Bruno is the project manager for the Google Earth application and came to Google as part of Keyhole. Interestingly both NASA and Google demonstrated time animations of the Blue Marble. Bruno showed the one I developed for Google Earth which you can see here. I may be biased, but the GE one looked far better in my opinion. Bruno went on to show examples of satellite imagery, the UNEP environmental layer, and an interesting Geologic map of the US I hadn't seen before. In the questions afterwards Bruno was asked if GE would be able to show sub-surface detail (so you could do model underground mines for example). The response was "we don't discuss future releases" - "it would be interesting to see done in the future." This question was asked 3 times during the session.
- Bill Manley of the University of Colorado discussed a project where they used a GE presentation on Arctic Warming to 8th graders to understand how virtual globes could be used to improve education about this important topic. One key point was that the eigth graders became most interested when they zoomed in on the location of their school and saw it in the satellite photo. Also, Bill said that using virtual globes for education is in its infancy.
- Jon Dehn of the University of Alaska at Fairbanks presented a project where they are working with K-12 schools in Alaska which are near volcanoes (not a hard thing to find in Alaska). They are giving them instrument packages where the students can record data about active volcanoes and the data is uploaded through the Internet, processed and presented back to the students in Google Earth.
- Alan Glennon of the University of California at Santa Barbara, and writer of the Geography 2.0 - Virtual Globes blog, was up next. He discussed the proliferation of virtual globe software (showing a list of 30 different software applications). He also discussed his research interests in the areas of forecasting geysers (he's used Google Earth to georeference geysers in Chile) and to model underground caves (where he also requested this capability for GE).
- Brandon Badger of Google was up next with a presentation about the importance of KML for scientific visualizations. He emphasized the ease of converting datasets into KML and the new capabilities of using KML both in Google Earth and Google Maps. And, although he didn't state it, many of the other virtual globes are supporting KML as well (like WorldWind and ESRI's ArcGIS Explorer). I asked whether network links would be supported in Google Maps, and someone else asked about time animation - we got the standard "hopefully in a future release".
- Jon Blower of the Reading e-Science Center illustrated some data layers for marine science which are viewable both in an online web browser or in Google Earth.
After the presentation I saw an interesting demonstration of a planetarium-like dome with a projector showing a very Celestia-like software visualization giving a tour of the universe. Very cool stuff, and kind of funny as I had envisioned doing something similar about 3 years ago when I first saw Celestia. I really liked the inflatable dome they had for the demonstration. There's a similar technology available based on Space.com's excellent Starry Night planetarium software which is in use in some planetariums.
Make sure to read about Days 2 & 3 at AGU as well.
Google Earth File Against Logging Leads to Support from Al Gore, and Other Anti-Logging Efforts
The San Jose Mercury News published a story by Scott Herhhold December 3rd on the efforts to stop a logging plan for the Santa Cruz mountains near Los Gatos, California. The efforts to stop the plan by residents in the area got a huge boost after a Google Earth file, created to illustrate the logging plan, was shown to former Vice-President Al Gore who immediately spoke out against the plan. "The proposal is deeply flawed,'" he said. "The commercial logging of these trees simply makes no sense.'" Many of the trees are redwoods.
The Google Earth file was created by a member of the Google Earth team at Google named Rebecca Moore. She lives in the area and created this Google Earth file several months ago. It shows the planned logging area, location of streams and creeks, schools, homes and of course the trees themselves. Using Google Earth to show the beautiful area has been very powerful for stirring debate about the proposal. Powerful enough to get Al Gore to speak against it.
Other people concerned about the effects of logging on the environment have begun creating similar GE illustrations. I recently wrote about the Victorian Rainforest Network's efforts to show logging plans in Australia. The Wilderness Society in Australia has created GE files illustrating widespread logging plans on the island of Tasmania. And, over a year ago I wrote about researchers who had developed a technique for discovering logging which has been going on in the Amazon underneath the forest canopy using satellite technology.
Caza de Juguetes y Localizador de Santa Claus en Google Earth
[ACTUALIZACION Día de Navidad: Santa Claus terminó su entrega, por lo que también su trabajo. Pero pueden leer leer este artículo y ver el mapa aproximado de su ruta.]
¡Google ha lanzado un Localizador de Santa Claus este año para Google Earth! En años pasados Google ha tenido localizadores de Santa Claus que te permitían ver la entrega de juguetes alrededor del mundo utilizando Google Earth en la víspera de Navidad. Este año han comenzado un poco más temprano con un juego para encontrar un juguete correspondiente a cada uno de los 12 días previos a Navidad. No sólo eso, sino que la nueva versión utiliza modelos 3D creados en SketchUp de la casa que tiene Santa Claus en el Polo Norte, su trineo y los juguetes, todo en 3D. De acuerdo con la página web de Santa en Google, debes utilizar Google Earth 4 (descárgala aquí). De todas maneras, si ya tienes la última versión de GE, puedes descargar el Localizador de Santa Claus y la Caza de Juguetes aquí . Luego haces doble clic en cada la fecha del día, en la carpeta "Santa's Present Hunt", en Mis Lugares. Acerca la imagen para ver la casa de Santa y cliquea en la pista del día para encontrar el lugar y el juguete correspondiente. Una vez que encuentres el lugar, un modelo 3D del juguete aparecerá en 3D.
En vísperas de Navidad, Santa Claus y su trineo viaja por el planeta entregando juguetes. Su posición se actualiza automáticamente sobre una ciudad nueva cada 20 segundos. Esta es una manera divertida de mostrar las posibilidades dinámicas de GE, y además, de utilizar la herramienta de modelado 3D comprada por Google el año pasado. ¡Feliz Navidad!
12 de Diciembre 2006
Avian Flu Tracker Updated
Declan Butler of Nature Magazine has recently updated his Avian Flu Tracker for Google Earth. Declan has been enhancing this powerful visualization for showing the spread of Avian Flu during the last year. Used with Google Earth 4 you can see a time animation of the progression of the reported cases of the flu. I recommend changing the option (by selecting the little "clock" to the left of the time slider bar) to "Clamp beginning of time window". If you look in the Places pane, there are folders containing additional data sets.
Declan mentions in his blog entry that the reported number of cases are lower and less geographically spread at this time. But, he points out: "...this could be a seasonal lull -- avian flu hits hardest in winter, and it is summer in the Southern hemisphere. Moreover, it is worth remembering that 2006 has seen more human cases, 111 cases, and 76 deaths, than in any previous year."
Turning Torso 3D Building
Another excellent model by 'barnabu' posted at the Google Earth Community. This time he developed a 3D model of the Turning Torso , a 190m skyscraper in Malmö, Sweden. This was a tricky model to make (probably not as hard as it was to build the actual building though), and 'barnabu' gets kudos from other model makers for his efforts. According to Wikipedia, the lower two "cubes" are for offices, the top 6 "cubes" are residential luxury apartments. Definitely a sight to behold, and now easy to see from every angle in Google Earth!
11 de Diciembre 2006
Historical Maps - Now Viewable in Other Language Versions of Google Earth
The popular Rumsey historical maps, which were released in early November, are now available in the other localized versions of Google Earth for French, Italian, German, Spanish, and Japanese. Initially, these maps were only available in the English versions of GE. The Rumsey historical maps, when turned on, overlay their approximate location on Earth. You must be using Google Earth 4 (download here) or you will not see this layer. Go to the "Featured Content Layer" and open the folder. Look for the "Rumsey Historical Maps" and open that folder as well. Turn on the map that interests you. The "Map Finder" option shows the locations of the different maps. You can then turn on each map and they will be overlayed in GE. The maps are "regionated", which means they will load more detail as you get closer (the map images were scanned at a very high resolution). See Rumsey's Google blog entry about the maps.
10 de Diciembre 2006
NASA Goddard Publishes Huge Google Earth Time Animations
NASA Goddard's Scientific Visualization Studio has released a long list of Google Earth time animations of weather satellite "movies", and other scientific visualizations which had already been available as Quicktime movies or image sequences. This is the largest collection of GE time animations I've seen to date. Time animations are a feature only available in Google Earth 4 (Version 4.0.2091 or greater - download the latest GE here). The concept of taking these visualizations and georeferencing them into Google Earth is great. However, NASA needs to provide lower resolution versions for some of the GE time animations because some of them take up too much memory. Caution! If you are willing to brave the risk of extra large datasets here is the NASA web site. The GE time animations are the links on the right side of the page. Some of the animations include dozens of multi-megabyte images (so, not only do you run the risk of running out of memory, but they may take a while to download). I suggest clicking on the links with the photos on the left first to decide whether the movie or images have too much data to attempt with the GE version. One of my favorites from the collection is the animation of Hurricane Katrina (this is still very large, but worth it if your computer can handle it). Thanks to 'barnabu' at the GEC for the tip on these new NASA files.
Virtual Globes at AGU - Frank Going to San Francisco
Next week I will be in San Francisco attending the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting where they are holding special sessions on Virtual Globes. Several papers are being presented on scientific research being done using Google Earth and other virtual globes. You can see a list of the presentations and presenters. I'm looking forward to meeting up with lots of folks I've written about in the Google Earth Community (both presenters and attendees). I'll also be heading over to the Googleplex one of the days to meet with some of the folks on the GE team. Please feel free to contact me through the blog or by E-mail if you'd like to hook up while I'm out there.
9 de Diciembre 2006
New Geographic Web Layers, POIs for Canada
Last night, Google pushed out some new layers for Google Earth. At the top of the layers pane, and turned on by default, are the new "Geographic Web" layers. The Geographic Web is an attempt to improve the quality of geographically oriented discovery. When turned on, as you zoom in closer to a significant location, more placemarks appear - this process helps reduce clutter. Here is what is available in the new layer:
- Best of Google Earth Community - Google has hand-picked some of the best placemarks from the GEC. Each of the placemark descriptions has a nice wrapping of useful links leading to the community, and includes pictures and descriptive text from the original posts.
- Panoramio - This is a collection of placemarks pointing to georeferenced photos from the web photo repository called Panoramio. Panoramio is a free georeferenced photo site which was built from the ground up with both Google Maps and Google Earth interfaces. Read my reviews here and here.
- Wikipedia - These placemarks are a selection of articles from Wikipedia. The placemark descriptions contain photos, summary information, and links to many useful parts of Wikipedia including the full article. I haven't yet determined whether these are hand-picked articles or simply all the Wikipedia articles which have been georeferenced.
Another important addition is for Canada. Google has added many of the basic layers for Dining, Lodging, Parks and Recreation, Community Services, etc. for areas all around Canada. This information is called "Points of Interest" (POI) in GPS lingo. It is an invaluable resource when traveling or considering moving to a new area and Google has been making it available for more countries every few months.
Google continues to try and find better ways of presenting community contributed information. I congratulate them on working to improve the quality of information, and to improve the interface for viewing the information. There's a delicate balance between too much information, and quality. These new layers certainly provide another avenue for exploring the world's information. It will be interesting to see how this process of improvement continues in the coming years.
8 de Diciembre 2006
NOAA's Great Lakes Environmental Research Lab Publishes Google Earth Content
After publishing the blog entry about the SS Edmund Fitzgerald earlier today, it seems like a good time to announce a related story. Greg Lang of the NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Lab wrote me yesterday to reveal their recent web page with several interesting GE KMZ files. First, they have two files which are updated 4 times per day showing real-time surface temperature of the lakes, and wave heights (I've already suggested they change these to network links). They also have a bathymetry file (depths) for the lakes.
It's good to see another NOAA lab supporting KML/KMZ file types so more people can access this government sponsored data. I encourage governments in all countries to share important scientific and especially environmental data via KML/KMZ which is supported by Google Earth and other free virtual globe applications.
- NWS supports Radar Loop Animations
- Status of the World's Coral Reefs
- Severe Weather Data from NOAA
- Aurora Viewing Map
Shipwreck - A Historical Documentary Including 3D in Google Earth
On November 10, 1975 the SS Edmund Fitzgerald - a lake freighter - sank suddenly in a gale storm while on Lake Superior. According to Wikipedia:
The ship went down without a distress signal in 530 feet (162 m) of water at 46°59.9'N 85°6.6'W, in Canadian waters about 17 miles (15 nm; 27 km) from the entrance to Whitefish Bay. All 29 members of the crew perished. Gordon Lightfoot's hit song, The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, helped make the incident the most famous marine disaster in the history of Great Lakes shipping."
Back when GE was still called Keyhole, a forum member called 'Hill' posted a placemark showing the location of the shipwreck and some background infromation and history. Read the thread for lots of interesting details.
Now, one of our more prolific GE community 3D modelers, 'jpwade', has posted a 3D model of the SS Edmund Fitzgerald restoring her to brand-new glory. He also created a collection of image overlays and a bathymetric vector contour of the area where the wreckage was found . Some of the data came from the US Coast Guard.
And, to add a sense of what it might be like, 'jpwade' created an animation of how the conditions might have been before the sinking. This innovative GE 4-only time animation shows the ship plowing through with giant waves. Great work 'jpwade'!
Related: Visible Shipwrecks Around the Earth.
7 de Diciembre 2006
Explosion of GPS mapping tools and web sites
The rapid increase in the number of mapping mashups and tools like Google Earth have obviously spawned greater interest in keeping track of our lives. GPS sales are up. And more people are geo-referencing their photos to maps every day. Since Google Earth Blog was started I've written about many different mapping tools, and web sites for displaying GPS tracks, photos, and other information. And, I normally just write about the ones which also have Google Earth support - so there are even more available than you see here. Here are a few recent examples of mapping tools which have come out:
- mtbguru.com - This free web site allows you to upload your GPS tracks and photos and will automatically georeference your photos to the tracks. They also have good output to Google Earth. See this example of a mountain biking adventure with photos (here is the mtbguru web map version). I've written a number of times about, and used, RoboGEO- a commercial product which has this same kind of capability. RoboGEO is a more robust and full-featured product, but for basic needs mtbguru will probably work just fine.
- wikiloc and EveryTrail - OgleEarth recently featured wikiloc- which recently won the Google Maps Mashup content, and EveryTrail - yet another web-based GPS mapping tool which allows you to show photos as well.
The interesting thing is that some of the web mapping tools are devoted to niche subjects. For example, some are devoted to just paragliding, mountain biking, flying, sailing, or hiking. Other tools take a more generic approach and allow you to finesse and customize all kinds of data for different visualizations (e.g. Magnalox). Here are a few examples of the mapping with GPS tools I've written about (in alphabetical order):
6 de Diciembre 2006
Plazes.com Does Google Earth - Social Network
Plazes.com is a Web 2.0 social networking site which uses maps to help you track the location of friends and find new people you might want to contact. You can choose to show your location (the place you work, or the actual place where you are). You might want to show which bar you hang out at for example. The developers of this site recently got together with some folks from the Google Earth team and quickly turned around an implementation of their data for Google Earth. Simply download the Plazes.com KML file . Since they are using network links you are able to view the data update dynamically. They also use the photos from participants as icons for the placemarks showing their locations. A click on the placemark gives you a larger photo (if provided) and basic information such as name, a description of their location, and a link to contact them through the web site.
This is probably the best implementation for a Web 2.0 social network for Google Earth I've seen so far. Although, the response from the server seems a little slow this morning. Previously I had written about the TheCity Local (a dating service). A similar social mapping site has been out for several months called Platial. They also have support for Google Earth.
The Malaria Map Project in Google Earth
Researchers from Kenya and the UK have been conducting a project to map cases of the mosquito borne parasite which causes the disease known as malaria. According to ScienceDaily.com, it has been almost 40 years since the first comprehensive map of malaria risk had been created. Check out the web site for the malaria atlas project (MAP - cute acronym) for more details (including methods of collecting data). The project has published two Google Earth files for two different variants of malaria: Plasmodium falciparum , or Plasmodium vivax . The GE files contain placemarks of the data and they are colored according to how recent the cases were reported. Most recent cases (2001-2006) are colored red, oldest cases are colored green (1984-1990).
This is important data and Google Earth is an excellent way of presenting it. They should take some tips from the Avian Flu outbreak tracker created by Declan Butler from Nature Magazine. The malaria atlas project should put some links back to their web site in the KMZ files and provide some basic information in their placemarks. They also should create a network link so they can update the data without having to republish. But, this is a great first effort, and important resource.
5 de Diciembre 2006
Google Earth Nominated As "Product of the Year" in Belgium
A Belgian marketing congress has announced. in one of Belgium's largest newspapers the Standaard, the top 5 nominations for "Product of the Year". The list includes:
- The GPS
- Google Earth
- The Digital TV
Trulia Adds Google Earth for Real Estate Searches
Trulia is a real estate listing service which believes that "...information about properties, local neighborhoods, agents and brokers should be made freely available to everyone". When performing searches you get an integrated Google Maps map of the results, and they provide many useful tools such as heat maps on pricing. Yesterday they announced on their blog support for Google Earth in their search results. This means you can choose to view the results of your search as a collection of placemarks. For example, here's a look at homes in Clear Lake, Texas . The placemarks have the basic information such as photo of the property, price, address, number of bedrooms, and of course a link to more information.
To realize the true value of using Google Earth for real estate, you need to check out the layers in Google Earth. The layers are often overlooked - I guess because there are so many of them. When you are looking to buy a house in a new location, you need to know things like where are the nearest schools, whether a grocery store is close by, what the drive is like to work, how far it is to the airport. As you explore the layers and use the GE ruler or driving directions, you can get answers to all of these questions and more. The data in these layers varies in quantity depending on what country you live in, but Google has been continually adding this information all over the world.
For other examples of real estate listing services for Google Earth read some of these stories:
- Earthpoint - Real Estate listings for Boise, Idaho
- Real Esate listings by Re/Max
- Earthbooker - 80,000 Hotels in Google Earth
- Real Estate Interest in GE Grows
- Real Estate Done Google Earth Style
4 de Diciembre 2006
New Environment Category
After writing my recent blog entry "View Glaciers Melting in Google Earth" I came to the conclusion it is time to add a category to a frequent topic covered here at GEB. Using Google Earth quickly makes you realize how big our planet is, but also how much we humans are changing the face of the planet. If you often read the GE forums and blogs you begin to realize there are more people turning to GE to show what's happening to the environment. And, I think this is a good thing. So, I've added the Environment Category in the right sidebar. Check it out to see some of the interesting things being done with GE to highlight our environment.
3 de Diciembre 2006
View Melting Glaciers in Google Earth
With concerns of global warming, one of the most dramatic signs often shown are photos of places like Glacier National Park where some glaciers have all but completely melted. One of the Google Earth Community members known as 'blt' has been posting some interesting information on the topic. He started with a post showing examples of retreating and advancing glaciers viewable in Google Earth. Then blt posted an image overlay showing a diagram from the Seattle Times showing the retreat of glaciers around Mt. Ranier . Next blt managed to get (or make) a Google Earth file showing data from the GLIMS (Global Land Ice Measurements from Space) database from the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC). This file shows the state of glaciers around the world and categorizes them whether they are advancing, retreating, stationary, etc. It may be surprising to some how many glaciers are actually still growing and advancing. Google Earth gives everyone an opportunity to do their own visual analysis of glaciers and compare it with other official data sources. Thanks blt!
1 de Diciembre 2006
Hong Kong in 3D in Google Earth
The guys from ComputaMaps have created another excellent rendering of city buildings in 3D. This time the city of Hong Kong has been rendered with 29 detailed textured buildings and over 5000 building components in total. Download Hong Kong in 3D here (3.4 MBytes). Double click on one of the detailed building placemarks to fly in closer. ComputaMaps has colored buildings with lower heights darker than taller ones which helps give a better sense of realism. According to Steven at ComputaMaps, they believe hand-built buildings put together by artists look better than auto-generated photo-textured maps like what has been done in the Microsoft Virtual Earth 3D (VE3D) buildings. One issue Steven sees is that when future versions of these virtual globes model sunlight, the shadows cast by an artist rendered building will look much better. The VE3D buildings will have shadows stamped onto the photo textures - so they are stuck. Anyway, this collection for Hong Kong is definitely worth viewing. Great work guys!
History: The Flood of Florence in 1966 with Google Earth
On November 4th 1966, the city of Florence, Italy experienced a horrible flood when the river Arno broke its banks. One of the Google Earth Community members, known as 'bebop', sets an example of an excellent forum post by presenting pictures, photos, and reference links describing the event both in his post and with a Google Earth file of the flood which includes many photos tied to the locations of the photos, and a map overlay which shows the extent of the flooding. There are also links to informative web sites with more photos and descriptions of the events. If you read this, you will definitely learn something about this event. And, if you are a kid who happens to have a homework assignment about the flood of Florence, you just got lucky!