Google Earth Blog
As mentioned in my previous post, Google recently announced a new version of Google Earth for Android. This version (188.8.131.525) is a complete re-write of the underlying Google Earth 3D model, and now has access to unified mapping data used by Google Maps and this new version of Google Earth. This means the most current available mapping data can now be viewed in this version of Google Earth (Google Earth version 7 on all the other platforms is based on less current data). Version 8 also adds some enhanced 3D rendering and improves some aspects of KML support. These things are good news for what they portend for future releases on the other platforms. So, although this release is not everything we hoped for (see below), we are happy to see this new version released.
We can understand why Google would want to start development of Google Earth version 8 on Android first. The mobile version of Google Earth has far fewer features than the desktop versions, making it easier to develop a smaller set of features. None of the power features that allow you to create your own maps on the desktop version are available on the mobile version. Similarly, the more powerful KML features such as time animations, network links, GPS tracks, and many others are not yet supported on the mobile platform. This is true on the new version 8 release as well. Not only that, but this new release is missing a few important features from the previous release on mobile. It seems Google rushed this new release out as there are a number of bugs.
This review will show screenshots of the previous mobile version next to the new release. Version 7 will be on the left, and version 8 on the right in most cases. My two devices used for testing (a Samsung Galaxy S4 for version 7, and a Nexus 7 for version 8) have different aspect ratios, so they will look somewhat different.Atmospheric effects
The new version 8 includes a stronger rendering effect for the atmosphere similar to the one on the desktop version of Google Earth introduced several versions ago. While this gives a more realistic effect in some ways, Google needs to add an option to turn it off. The reason is that you can’t view data clearly, especially while viewing more horizontally. Also, the colors of the imagery are subdued because of the atmospheric effect and they look dull and “grey”. I see the atmosphere effects as a “gee whiz” effect that distracts from the important map data. In real life, the atmosphere gets clearer or more hazy depending on weather. Lets give the user that option. See screenshot comparison of version 7 (left), version 8 (right).New 3D model of Earth
Since Google Earth was first released, the rendering of the geometric model of the Earth had a flaw when viewing the poles. It was particularly bad when Google Earth was first released, but Google made some improvements in later versions. Google Earth’s developers told me years ago they hoped to someday re-write the model so you could view the poles. The new version 8 does address this and the renderings are free of visual anomalies. But, there is still some weirdness to how you zoom in and view the poles with the current interface. You can’t zoom straight down to the poles, you have to tilt your view and zoom towards them to see them. But, overall it is a much more pleasing view of the poles and proves this is a new geometric model for Google Earth. The south pole has a strange white spot (I guess they have no imagery there), but the north pole is fine. In version 7 you see lots of rays shooting out from the poles, but the new version shows the imagery fine. Unfortunately, the screenshots of the south pole are hard to make out due to lack of contrast with all the ice.Layer choices
Version 7 of the mobile version of Google Earth had already combined the layers of Borders and Labels into one choice. In version 8 they have gone a step further and combined Road, Borders and Labels into one choice. This is a mistake in my opinion because the user has less control over their mapping data. Not only that, but the vectors drawn in version 8 are not yet optimized when compared to version 7 and draw and/or load slower. This is especially obvious when zooming in and out. Also, the new borders and labels in version 8 coming from the Google Maps data are black and white and do not provide as much information as the Google Earth borders and labels. Google Earth 7 border layers show more data, and different colors, for things like oceans and sea names, country names verses states and cities, etc. The new version 8 labels are pretty much plain white and not as informative. However, they are more consistent with the Google Maps platform (which I also don’t like). A very important missing layer in version 8 is “3D Buildings”. You can’t turn them off in version 8, which is a mistake. The 3D buildings layer loads a lot of data which, if you are on a limited 3G bandwidth plan, means it could cost you if you use Google Earth to view cities with 3D data. It also could slow down your view when you just want to view the imagery or Street View data for that location. Other missing layers include: Ocean, Places, and Businesses. The screenshots below compare the labels and border data between the two versions.KML Support
Previous versions of Google Earth for mobile were difficult to load KML. However, we recently discovered that recent versions of Chrome for Android now allow you to load KML from web links (like those found on GEB) directly from the browser into either Google Earth 7 or the new version 8. The new version also gives you the new option to load KML from Google Drive, in addition to the options from Maps Gallery, Maps Engine (which will be the new My Maps), and your Google+ photos (that have been geotagged). Some of the Google Maps Gallery choices do not work properly because of limited KML functionality support on the mobile platform. KML support in version 8 is also a bit buggy at this point. I found many KMLs that should work to have errors (which have been reported, and Google says they will work on them). One particularly annoying bug is that KML lines go transparent when you tilt the view, so in an example of GPS tracks of a ski vacation much of the tracks are not visible in version 8, whereas version 7 shows them fine. See version 7 above version 8 in the screenshots below.In Summary
Google Earth Version 8 for Android is based on a new geometric 3D model of the Earth, and accesses the more current and more accurate data of the Google Maps databases. According to Google, this new version is the first overhaul to Google Earth’s 3D model in 10 years.
Version 8 does make it easier to load KML, although the limited support of KML features and rendering is disappointing. This version has fewer options to turn on/off mapping layers than even version 7 for mobile, so the layer features are a bit of a step backwards. But, hopefully Google will continue to advance the technology behind the mobile version and add new features and layers as it evolves.
We also sincerely hope Google puts even more effort behind the development of the desktop version 8. The desktop platform has suffered from the lack of access to more accurate mapping data improvements, and other development and bug fixes which is not good considering Google Earth is one of the world’s most popular applications. The desktop version of Google Earth also provides much more powerful features of KML, user data, map creation, APIs for developers, and much more. And lets face it, Google Earth looks awesome on the larger screens we use on non-mobile platforms!
There will be a partial solar eclipse later today October 23rd 2014. It will be visible over much of North America. We have looked at eclipses many time in the past, including: 2006, 2008 1,2, 2009, 2010,2012 and 2013.
Several of the sites or KMLs that we have pointed to in the past either no-longer work or do not include this eclipse – probably because it is only a partial eclipse. However, the HeyWhatsThat eclipse page, which uses the Google Earth plugin, still works correctly and will show you the path of today’s eclipse. Be sure to tick ‘penumbra’ near the bottom right. You can also watch the partial eclipse live on Slooh, an online community observatory. For more technical information about the eclipse see the NASA page
Eclipse track on HeyWhatsThat.
Google has announced a new version of Google Earth for Android that promises “an enhanced 3D experience, quicker updates to the map, and an easier way to view your KML files in Earth”. It has some interesting new rendering technology, and the ability more easily load KML files is an important step. I will be giving a more detailed look at the new Google Earth App for Android soon, including an analysis of the new rendering and KML support features. Here’s a screenshot Google provided of the new 3D look.
What is most significant about this announcement and release is that Google says this is the “first major 3D overhaul since Earth launched more than 10 years ago“. For the past couple of years, Google has not been making significant new updates to Google Earth. This is something we have been quite concerned about, since there hasn’t been a major update to the desktop version in almost 2 years. I wrote about these concerns in February, and Google’s Brian McClendon – who leads the Google Maps, Google Earth and other geographic products – promised they were planning to continue support for future Google Earth and KML development. This is the first step in delivering on the promise.
A significant hint at this new development effort is that the new Google Earth app now utilizes the Google Maps dataset. Always in the past, Google Maps and Google Earth used two different databases. That is why the roads and city names and other information often did not agree between the two products. The new Google Earth app definitely accesses current mapping data used in the Google Maps platform.
The new app doesn’t just have new data, it is a complete re-write to the underlying Google Earth underlying 3D model. That’s what they meant by an “overhaul“. I will explain more about this in the upcoming review, but we have discovered the entire geometric model is different. This is very significant and hints that Google is probably already working on developing a new desktop version of Google Earth that will utilize this new model and access the same unified database of mapping data! We are excited!
SigActs.com has an interesting blog post about U.S. sandwich restaurant chain Jimmy John’s, which requires their deli employees to sign non-compete agreements. There is an online map provided, but it is best viewed in Google Earth by downloading this KML file.
Jimmy John’s non-compete zones.
We asked blog writer Sean Maday how the map and KML were made and he told us:
I pulled all of the store locations from the Jimmy John’s website and then used PostGIS to create a three mile buffer (circle) around each store. Then I dissolved the buffers to create a union of all overlapping polygons.”
So would it be possible to do something similar using just Google Earth? It would certainly not be easy. Google Earth is a fantastic product but is not a replacement for a professional Geographic Information System (GIS) program.
KML does not have a built in way to create circles. The best you can do in KML is a polygon with lots of points on the circumference of a circle. We found a couple of online tools that help you create a KML circle around a given location: kml4earth and thesamestory. Neither of them offer an easy way to take a table of coordinates and create a KML of circles.
As for creating a union of overlapping polygons, we can find no way to do it in Google Earth or with basic tools other than manually editing the KML file. The only real solution is a GIS program. We did find a free opensource GIS called Quantum GIS and instructions on how to use it to merge polygons, but it is not a small application and not easy to use if you have no experience in GIS. PostGIS that Sean used is open source but requires some GIS and SQL experience to use.
Perhaps one of our readers knows of an easy way to merge to KML polygons without the use of a GIS package?
We have in the past shown you how to turn Google Earth into various other planets including Saturn, Jupiter and Mars. Several of the models come from the Barnabu blog by James Stafford, who also created a comparison of the solar system’s moons, which we covered in 2007.
Now you can explore a number of the solar system’s planets and moons using imagery courtesy of NASA and USGS, which has been published on the Google Maps Gallery by the SETI Institute.
Simply pick a map from here then click the ‘View in Google Earth’ button at the lower right. Turn off any distracting Google Earth layers. Also note that many of the maps have multiple layers that can be turned on or off in Google Earth.
Jupiter’s Moon Io.
Topographic map of Venus.
Thank you to GEB reader Sebastien for letting us know that the Field of View can be adjusted in Google Earth by means of a tour. There are other techniques mentioned here such as a KML with transparent photo overlay, or changing an ini file, but the tour technique seems to be the easiest.
It is hard to describe the effects of changing the field of view, so instead we will just show you.
Google Earth with different fields of view.
In the above screen shots, the eye altitude varies from about 64,000 km with a field of view of 10°, to just 37 km with a field of view of 300°. Also, with the larger fields of view it is possible to zoom out a very long way from the earth, which has interesting effects on the background stars and galaxy. Using the 300° field of view and zooming in on an area with mountains or 3D buildings also has interesting effects.
3D buildings seen with a 300° field of view.
If you ever want to change the field of view yourself simply create a short tour in Google Earth, edit the KML and add <gx:horizFov>120</gx:horizFov> inside the <LookAt> tag, changing ‘120’ to your desired field of view.
Alternatively, just download one of the tours we have prepared for you, and if it doesn’t have your desired field of view, edit it in a text editor and adjust the number in the line with ‘gx:horizFov’. Here are the tours: 10°,30°,45°,60°,90°,120°,160°,200°,300°.
The field of view remains in effect until you either open a tour with another field of view, or restart Google Earth.
The post Using KML to change your field of view in Google Earth appeared first on Google Earth Blog.
Due to the uncertain future of the Google Earth plugin, many prominent sites that used to use it have started to transition to other alternatives.
Here are three examples:Ships 2 Career from PlanetInAction.com
However, the developer, Paul van Dinther, is now working on Ships 2 Career, which is entirely Google Maps based. Follow his progress on his Google+ page. We are sure that when it is released it will be an excellent game.
Ships 2 Career will be entirely Google Maps based.
GE Teach, a site developed by 9th-grade geography teacher Josh Williams, received a Geographic Excellence in Media Award in 2012. The site, until now, has been making excellent use of the Google Earth plugin to show side by side comparison views of various maps.
However, the site is now transitioning to a new version based on Google Maps. Despite the lack of 3D, it still looks good and has a number of notable features, including drawing tools, access to Google Maps Gallery, and Street View.
GE Teach Google Maps version
YoubeQ is a cross between a social network and a driving/flying simulator. It allows you to drive or fly a large number of different vehicles/aircraft around the globe while socializing with other people you meet on the way. When we featured it in June 2014, it had 13 vehicles and 3 languages. Until recently it was based on the Google Earth plugin. It has now been completely redone in WebGL using Cesium. Read more about it here. It now uses Bing Maps for the 3D portion and Google Maps for navigation.
The new YoubeQ, using Cesium and Bing Maps.
The US Geological Survey (USGS) has a program called the 3D Elevation Program (3DEP).
From the USGS website:
The 3D Elevation Program (3DEP) initiative is being developed to respond to growing needs for high-quality topographic data and for a wide range of other three-dimensional representations of the Nation’s natural and constructed features. The primary goal of 3DEP is to systematically collect enhanced elevation data in the form of high-quality light detection and ranging (lidar) data over the conterminous United States, Hawaii, and the U.S. territories, with data acquired over an 8-year period. Interferometric synthetic aperture radar (ifsar) data will be collected over Alaska, where cloud cover and remote locations preclude the use of lidar over much of the State.
We believe that once completed the data will be placed in the public domain, which will mean that Google will use it in Google Earth. It is not clear how the resolution will compare to the 3D imagery that Google has been rolling out for cities that is created using a different technique. It would certainly not replace Google’s 3D imagery, as that requires not just a 3D model, but also photos of the different faces of the models, which will not be provided by the USGS data. However, it would certainly significantly improve the 3D landscape for areas where Google has not created 3D mesh.
Google has worked closely with USGS in the past. The Earthquake layer in Google Earth is provided by the USGS, as was the imagery used in Google Earth Engine to create global yearly images and a timelapse of the whole earth.
High-resolution lidar image of Mount St. Helens, Washington. Courtesy of USGS. A downloadable high resolution poster of this image can be found here
This article in the Washington post shows a sample of the new terrain maps, which clearly shows trees and is reminiscent of Google’s 3D imagery. However, this article from The American Surveyor shows a sample in which the trees hardly seem to feature. I guess we will have to wait for the first actual releases of data to see what the results are.
A magnetic compass, including the compasses on most smart phones, does not point to the North Pole, or even to the North Magnetic Pole. Instead, it points away from True North by an angle known as the Magnetic Declination, which varies considerably, depending on where you are on the earths surface. It also varies slowly over time, as you can see in the animation on the Wikipedia page. On paper maps, this may be further complicated by a third direction known as Grid North, which refers to the direction northwards along the grid lines of the map.
We mentioned in this post a time animation for Google Earth, visualizing the Earth’s magnetic fields changing over time. You can check it out, but we had difficulty getting it to work well as an animation in the current version of Google Earth, although viewing an individual year is not a problem.
To find out what the magnetic declination in your location is, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), provides a handy tool on their website. There is also this useful site that lets you pick your loction on a map and tells you the magnetic declination. The ruler tool in Google Earth shows ‘heading’, so once you know your magnetic declination it is pretty easy to work out which way your compass will point in Google Earth.
Magnetic declination for Cape Town.
From what we can tell, the mobile versions of both Google Maps and Google Earth automatically correct for magnetic declination and always show True North, although we couldn’t find any documentation to that effect.
The US National Snow & Ice Data Center (NSIDC) has recently updated their KML files of Arctic and Antarctic ice to include 2014 data. We have looked at their work many times in the past, as you can see here. Also of note is this press release from them explaining that the Arctic sea ice extent is shrinking and the Antarctic sea ice extent is growing. They also indicate this is the 6th lowest amount of ice recorded since they began measurements. Keep in mind that this is minimum and maximum extent of sea ice as measured by satellite and not thickness or total volume.
What interested me most about the animations showing the historical record is how the maximum extent of sea ice seems to be a very different shape each year.
Poachers tracked down with Google Earth
Arctic sea ice extent, September 2014. The pink line is the monthly median sea ice extent 1981-2010
There was an interesting story on Mongabay.com about how a poachers’ camp was identified using the imagery in Google Earth.
The ‘machamba’ (small farm with a few huts) shown in the article.
The interesting part of the story from a Google Earth perspective is that the imagery used was from July 2013 and July 2012, yet it was still useful in tracking down active poachers in 2014. To see the location in Google Earth download this KMLWorld’s first space detective agency launched.
See the full article here.
Because satellite imagery is being used in court cases more and more frequently, Raymond Harris and Raymond Purdy have launched the world’s first space detective agency. They will specialize in finding and obtaining appropriate satellite imagery for legal cases as well as ensuring that the acquisition and subsequent handling of imagery meets the standards required by courts.
The post News Roundup: Polar ice caps, poachers and space detectives appeared first on Google Earth Blog.
We recently came across this map in the Maps Gallery which alerted us to the the fact that Google Earth (and Maps) has imagery taken soon after the magnitude 6.0 earthquake that struck Napa Valley, California in August. To find out when and where the earthquake took place, we can use the ‘Earthquake’ layer in Google Earth (found in the ‘Gallery’ layer). According to the marker on that layer, provided by the US Geological Survey (USGS), the Earthquake took place at 10:20:44 UTC on August 24, 2014, which was 3:20 a.m. local time. The latest imagery in the region is dated August 24, 2014, and judging from the shadows, was taken in the early afternoon. The whole area has the new 3D imagery, which is created with aerial photography captured before the earthquake, so to see the imagery from 24th August, turn off the 3D buildings layer. You will also not see the imagery in Google Maps, because it also shows the 3D imagery and has no way to turn it off or view historical imagery.
Although hundreds of buildings were damaged, very few collapsed, so in most cases the damage is not visible in the satellite imagery.
An earthquake damaged building showing debris in the road and a crowd of onlookers.
Four homes burnt down in fire in mobile home park. See this news article.
Collapsed car port roofs. See news article here.
Water on road from ruptured water pipes.
Download this KML file to view the locations in Google Earth.
For our many other posts about earthquakes and the tools in Google Earth relating to earthquakes you can go here.
We came across an interesting story about a Tongan islet disappearing. Read more about it here.
The Tonga islet of Monaufe disappearing as seen in Google Earth historical imagery.
It is not the first Togan islet to disappear. Here is an article from 1913 printed in the Australian paper the Sunday Morning Herald which also mentions an islet in the Tonga group disappearing.
Thank you to GEB readers André, Martin and Maarten for letting us know that Google did an imagery update on 4th October, 2014.
Imagery updates for 4th October, 2014 – Larger version.
Google has this map on the Maps Gallery that shows the latest imagery updates. However, there is no way to save it other than via a screen shot. The map is updated after Google releases new Imagery. Until yesterday, it showed the last imagery update that we reported on which was on the 26th of August.
However there is another map here which purports to show updates for the whole month rather than just the most recent date. Strangely, it also only showed the month of August 2014 until yesterday, but now it shows September 2014. When it showed August 2014, it appeared to correctly show a combination of the August 13th and August 26th Updates. So were there updates in September that were never shown on the normal updates map?
Imagery updates for the Month of September 2014 ? – Larger version.
Following on from yesterday’s post about historical imagery, we thought it would be interesting to make an animation. As you can see below, we have created an animated gif image showing the historical imagery for Europe. Because there is very little imagery prior to the year 2000, we have shown decades from 1940 to 2000 and then yearly snapshots from 2000 to date.
If you look carefully, you can see the difference between aerial imagery, which is introduced in large patches, and satellite imagery, which appears in strips running in a north-south direction.
There are several different ways to get to Historical Imagery:
- On the toolbar, click the ‘Historical Imagery’ button. (A clock with an arrow pointing anticlockwise see 1. in the screenshot below).
- From the menu select ‘View->Historical Imagery’. (2. in the screenshot below)
- Click on the date in the lower left corner of the Google Earth window, which will take you immediately to the oldest historical imagery available. (3. in the screenshot below). Note that the date will only show when historical imagery is available for the area you are viewing.
It is also important to know how to tell the date of the imagery being displayed in Google Earth. If you put the mouse over the location you are interested in, Google Earth will show “Imagery date” near the bottom center of the screen. This is shown as 4. in the screen shot above. Do not confuse this with 3. which is the date of the oldest available historical imagery.
Also keep in mind:
- For aerial imagery, the date displayed may not be accurate. For an explanation as to why this is, see this post.
- For cities with 3D imagery, the date of the 3D imagery is not shown. This is because the 3D imagery is treated as a model in Google Earth and not imagery.
- You may encounter places between images where no date is shown.
When you open Historical Imagery, the toolbar shown below is displayed. The view in Google Earth will also tend to look patchy, because Google Earth is no longer blending various images together.
The Historical Imagery toolbar.
Use the time slider to display imagery from the date you desire. Note that:
- Unless you are zoomed in quite close the ground, imagery matching the date you have selected will usually only be a portion of the imagery displayed on the screen.
- Generally, the imagery displayed on screen is the same date or older than the date selected on the Historical Imagery slider – except for a global background image of poor resolution, for which a date is not shown.
Some of the imagery in Historical Imagery may actually be more recent than the default imagery displayed in Google Earth. This is because Google selects the best quality imagery available for a location in preference to the most recent.
Switching to the Historical Imagery view also turns off the new 3D buildings mesh and displays the 3D models that were there previously – if you have the 3D buildings layer turned on.
While writing the 3D imagery post we came across this oddity: If you draw a path in Google Earth, the line segments follow geodesics, which are parts of great circles. If you draw a polygon, the sides are rhumb lines (also known as loxodromes or lines of constant bearing). A geodesic is a straight line on a three dimensional globe. A rhumb line is a straight line on the Web Mercator projection used by Google Maps.
On looking up the KML reference documentation the only mention as to whether the lines drawn will be geodesics or rhumb lines is a small note that appears under <Polygon> and <LinearRing>.
And this seems to be the only reference in the KML documentation to either geodesics or rhumb lines or when one or the other will be used to render a line. After some experimentation it was noticed that in actual practice, in Google Earth, a filled polygon uses rhumb lines whereas an unfilled polygon uses geodesics. We also tried importing KMLs into My Maps, and it turns out that My Maps always uses geodesics.
So if you work with polygons in Google Earth, keep in mind that:
- If you change its ‘filled’ attribute you will affect whether it uses geodesics or rhumb lines.
- If you want an unfilled polygon that still maintains rhumb lines for its vertices, then don’t change it to unfilled, but change the opacity of its ‘filled’ attribute to zero.
- If you import filled polygons into My Maps via KML they will be converted from rhumb lines to geodesics.
Filled polygon showing rhumb line sides. Rhumb lines drawn on a globe curve more near the poles.
We have also created a KML for you to download demonstrating the different effects.
Google Earth’s 3D view of the Ocean floor was first introduced in version 5. It has been improved a number of times since then. Panaromio photos in the oceans were added in 2010 and underwater Street View in 2012.
Google’s current ocean floor data comes from a number of sources, including:
- Ship bathymetry data. Learn more about it in this post.
- An extrapolation of water surface heights to estimate undersea mountains and canyons, based on radar data collected by satellite.
- Satellite data on slight variations of the pull of gravity over the oceans.
One of the organizations that has provided this data in the past is the Scripps Institution Of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego. Yesterday, they released some new data from the satellites CryoSat-2 and Jason-1, including global maps of the sea floor that they have released in KML format so they can be viewed in Google Earth. Read more about it and download the KMLs here. Be sure to watch the video featured on that page, which explains more about it.
Google get their imagery from a wide variety of sources, and due to there being so many factors involved, it is impossible to predict when and where they will do updates. We have covered this a number of times on our blog, most recently in April. But before we start talking about imagery updates, it is important to realize that the satellite imagery displayed in Google Earth by default is often not the most recent imagery available. Why this is the case is explained here. So always be sure to check Historical Imagery to make sure that there isn’t already something more recent available. Instructions on how to use the Historical Imagery feature in Google Earth can be found here. It is important to note that the dates displayed on the imagery are not always accurate. The reasons for this are explained here.
Satellite or aerial imagery
If you are a city, state or country that has collected aerial imagery at your own expense, you own the rights to the imagery, and would like Google to put it into Google Earth, there is a pretty good chance that asking Google to do so will meet with a positive response. This is provided that the imagery is of good quality, is properly georeferenced etc. But for the rest of us, if we want more recent satellite or aerial imagery we typically just have to wait until either a satellite gets a good image of our area or some commercial project takes aerial imagery of our area, and Google either purchases it or enters some agreement whereby they can use the imagery. Capturing aerial imagery is still very expensive and such projects are typically done on a city-sized area or larger. Hopefully, the advances in drone technology will soon mean that the costs of capturing aerial imagery will come down dramatically.
If what you want is a satellite or aerial image of a given location and you are willing to pay for it, then it may be possible for you to purchase the imagery or even contract a company to capture imagery. Satellite imagery providers will often have imagery that is more recent than that found in Google Earth, but be warned that it will typically contain partial cloud cover. If you want satellite imagery, a list of suppliers for Digital Globe imagery can be found here. Another satellite imagery company is Airbus Defense and Space. And then there is Skybox Imaging, which is owned by Google.
The availability of aerial imagery providers will depend on your location, so if aerial imagery is required, we recommend an internet search for providers in your area. The resolution of aerial imagery is typically better than that of satellite imagery and is less likely to have problems with cloud cover, as the aircraft can either fly below the clouds or pick a day with clear skies. However, contracting someone to capture aerial imagery is typically significantly more expensive than satellite imagery.
What about Street View?
Street View imagery is gradually being expanded to much of the globe, and for many places, existing coverage is being continuously updated. They do give some information as to where they will are currently driving, which can be found here.
If you want Street View where you are, you have a number of options available. If you are a small to medium sized business, you can get Business View and hire a photographer from Google’s network of trusted photographers to come and photograph your business and have it uploaded into Street View. For large venues, such as a university, stadium, mall, or park, you can actually request a visit from the Street View team, and if you are lucky, they will come and photograph your venue for you. If you’re a tourism board, non-profit, university, research organization or other third party who can gain access and help collect imagery of hard to reach places, you can apply to borrow the Trekker via the Trekker Loan Program.
If all you want is a few panoramas, then you can take them yourself and upload them via Google Views. The easiest way to capture imagery for Google Views is using the smart phone app PhotoSphere, available for both Android and iOS. When you capture Photo Spheres they become part of Street View and are actually given preference by Google over images taken by their Street View vehicles.
A Photo Sphere taken by GEB writer Mickey Mellen is now part of Street View. To read more about when and where he captured it, see his post here
As mentioned in this recent post, users that have custom maps are being migrated from the Classic My Maps to Google’s new version of My Maps which was formerly Google Maps Engine Lite. This information pertains to the desktop web versions, not the mobile apps.
So let us have a look at the observable differences between the new Google My Maps and Google Maps, and how it effects Google Earth users. The following post is based entirely on observations made while trying the products and it is important to remember that we have no direct knowledge of the actual technology used behind the scenes.
Both Google Maps and Google My Maps appear to share the same basic mapping data, such as the street map, public transit maps, and points of interest, but beyond that, there are very significant differences between the two.
- This is again the new Google Maps (also known as the “preview” option).
- It is dynamic. Click on any place on the map, and the map changes, highlighting subtly important features relevant to the location you clicked and hiding features that are less relevant.
- It is personal. If you have signed in, then your saved places places will be shown, and possibly your home and work locations if Google knows them. Your current location may also be shown if you wish.
- It has Street View, including Historical Street View, which cannot be accessed in Google Earths Street View, nor in the older version of Street View.
- It has Earth view, including 3D imagery and the ability to tilt and pan the view in a way that is similar to Google Earth, but in a number of ways significantly different. Most notably, the 3D view can only be viewed from the four cardinal directions and two specific angles.
- It has web versions of Google Moon and Google Mars similar to those in Google Earth. There are currently no ‘My Moon’ or ‘My Mars’ products. In Google Moon and Google Mars in the new Google Maps Earth View, there is no search functionality, whereas in the desktop application Google Earth, there is both search functionality and many selectable layers. Plus you can create KML content on the Google Earth versions of Moon and Mars for your own use, or to be shared with others via KML.
- It has only two base maps – the background image that the map data is overlayed onto. There is the default street map view, which shows significant variation over the different zoom levels, and there is the satellite imagery in Earth View.
- It has a new rendering engine with a smoother feel when zooming in and out. Also screen updates tend to be done for the whole screen at once rather than in a tiled fashion.
- It includes the ability to give directions.
- It has traffic information for some locations.
Google My Maps
- This is the new Google My Maps, not the classic version. It was formerly Google Maps Engine Lite, and still has references to the old name of “My Places” which was the tie to Google Earth.
- The new My Maps lacks many of the features of Google Maps, including dynamic changes, personal features, Street View, 3D imagery, tilt, Google Moon, Google Mars, and traffic information.
- They have just recently added a limited ability to import KML – but, KML import has limitations (see this help page at bottom). You can still import KML with the older My Maps/Places and then import the map into the new My Maps. You can also export the map in KML so you can view it in Google Earth. If you choose the network link version you won’t be able to view off line. (See help page).
- It has 9 basic base maps available, with each one having optional settings, such as turning off the streets or other features.
- Although you can add directions as part of your map, a user viewing your shared map cannot get directions.
- It provides the ability to create your own map, including points, lines, polygons, and directions – this is, after all, its primary purpose. But, the user interface is different from the classic version.
- It allows you to share the map in either editable form with collaborators, or in read only form. You can share with individuals or with the public.
- It includes tools to measure distances and areas. Note that measuring areas in Google Earth is only possible in the paid version Google Earth Pro.
Above: Google Maps
1. More information about a place.
2. Directions and Traffic data
3. Save as favorite in your personal map.
4. Street View, photos and reviews.
5. Related places have been shown. We clicked a stadium, so other stadiums and football clubs were highlighted.
6. Limited 3D viewing similar to Google Earth including 3D Cities, Moon/Mars.
Above: Google My Maps
1. Fewer options on a selected place.
2. Topology base map, not available in Google Maps.
3. Limited ability to import/export KML for use with Google Earth.
4. Alternative view is ‘Satellite’ view and not ‘Earth’ view.
5. Fewer controls.
It is actually possible to preview a My Maps map in Google Maps, but I could not find a way to share one in that way.
The takeaway from all this? Do not expect the users of your My Maps creations to have the same experience they would in Google Maps on the desktop. It is a different product with a different engine under the hood. If you use Google Earth to create your mapping content, you may find limitations in importing the KML to the new My Maps verses the classic version. Similarly, the export of KML is different from the classic version.
[Update: Thanks to GEB reader Marko Zlatic for pointing out that Google Maps' Earth view can be rotated and tilted freely by holding down the Ctrl key (in Windows, I assume the Command key works on Mac) contrary to the statement in the post above that it is restricted.]
Early this month we released a KML demarcating the areas covered with the new 3D mesh that Google has been rolling out in Google Earth. It has proved quite popular, with readers regularly letting us know of new areas they have found.
Street View coverage has been expanding, with the most significant gains in Argentina and Malaysia.
As far as we are aware, Google have not done any significant updates to satellite or aerial imagery this month.
We really liked the story about Skybox Imaging capturing the Burning Man festival on multiple days and producing animated gifs from the results. If you haven’t done so already, be sure to check out their official blog post with many more animations like the one below.
One of a number of animated gifs created by Skybox Imaging.
We enjoyed looking at the 3D imagery that Google is rolling out and having a deeper look at what you can see in it and what problems it has, and why.
The Cruise ship Richard With, one of several cruise ships we looked at in Bergen, Norway.
If aircraft moved during the image capturing, the result is ghostly looking 3D images.
Another interesting story was about a mural of Google Earth in Chanute, Kansas, that is visible in the Google Earth satellite imagery. Read more in the post to find out why it was made.
The Google Earth mural as seen in Google Earth.
We also took a look at the Ground Truth project and how Google creates the Google Maps data and keeps it up to date.
Google Maps contains a lot more than just street names.
What were your favorite stories of the month?