Google Earth Blog
We recently got a query by a reader asking whether or not it is possible for a conman to put a fake address into Google Earth. The short answer is yes.
Google gets its information from a large number of sources. The Earth is a very big place, so the amount of data involved is simply staggering. Errors, of course, do exist. These come in many forms, such as an island that didn’t exist, or the time that Google lost a city in Florida. When Google once removed the name “Persian Gulf”, Iran threatened to sue because the name is a very sensitive issue in the region.
Borders are often a contentious issue. It may be simply a case of borders being in the wrong place due to errors in the data supplied to Google, or border disputes, where two countries disagree about where their shared border is. Google method for the latter is to share data based on international mapping standards data – which they illustrate by showing disputed borders in red, or showing different borders depending on which country you are using the product from. Also, when new countries are formed, it may take Google (and all other mapping companies) a little while to update their maps.
One of Google’s sources of information is the general public via three main routes: the ‘report a problem’ feature in Google maps, the more sophisticated Google Mapmaker that Google released in 2008, and Google My Business (formerly Google Places). The last one is primarily for business address listings, whereas the first two deal with more general mapping information.
The processes for changing mapping data have a number of verification systems in place. However, since it is often impossible to verify the validity of all updates. Google mapmaker works on a system of reputation whereby your edits require less verification as you gain reputation. Google My Business encourages you to verify your address or phone number. None of the systems are totally fool proof, but the same system can be used to correct inaccurate data that works its way into the system.
An example of information that really shouldn’t have been allowed into Google Maps.
This appears to be a genuine road.
So why would people want to put false information into Google Maps? Here is a story of a restaurant which closed down because, the owner claims, its listing on Google Maps showed that they were closed on what were formerly its most popular days. His lawyer thinks that a competing restaurant sabotaged the listing. Earlier this year Bryan Seely went public, saying that he used to do ‘map jacking’ for profit but decided to go public in the hopes of getting a job at Google. As a publicity stunt, he managed to intercept calls to the FBI and Secret service by placing false contact information for them on Google Maps.
It is important to keep in mind that, for example, in the vacation rentals business where scams are quite common, the information in Google Maps may be correct, but when you arrive at your destination and knock on the door, you could discover that the person you wired your down-payment to does not own the property. No one wants that kind of thing to happen.
Imaginary road really exists!
Google Maps and Google Earth mapping data should always be treated like Wikipedia: an extremely useful resource, but not guaranteed to be correct.
The post Could a conman get false information into Google Maps or Google Earth? appeared first on Google Earth Blog.
With our recent story on the possible demise of the Google Earth plugin – at least in the Chrome browser – it begs the question, what is currently possible with the Google Maps API?
Paul van Dinther of PlanetInAction.com, whose many great Google Earth Plugin creations we have featured over the years, is developing a new version of his ship simulator, Ships 2 Career, based on Google Maps. The previous version is based on the Google Earth plugin and is still available at PlanetInAction.com. You can get an idea of what the game will be like from this YouTube video.
Upcoming console game Destiny will be released in 3 days. Game developer Bungie, who also created Halo, has created a website showing the worlds of Destiny – Moon, Mars, and Venus.
Although the intro does give the illusion of a 3D experience reminiscent of Google Maps ‘Earth Mode’, the website is really much closer to Street View than the Google Earth plugin. The website says “created with Google Technologies”, and appears to be more sophisticated than simply using the Google Maps API.
The worlds of Destiny.
Street View on Venus! I think they used the ‘Trekker’ for this one.
Street View on the Moon, looks much more exciting than the Google Maps version.
Thanks to GEB reader ‘ehog’ for letting us know that Győr, Hungary got the new 3D mesh recently.
Google first announced their method of generating 3D via stereophotogrammetry from aerial imagery in June 2012. As part of the announcement Google said that they expected this new technology to cover “communities of over 300 million people” by the end of the year. A year later, in July 2013, they were doing quite well and we counted around 150 cities with the new imagery. Progress continued, and in August 2013 Google announced that from October of that year they would no longer be pulling models from the Trimble 3D Warehouse as they wished to focus on more scalable methods.
However, there has been no easy way to find the new automatically generated 3D areas that Google is adding to Google Earth. Google has not, as far as I am aware, ever released a KML with the locations as it often does for new satellite imagery.
Google has a list that can be found here. However, it is far from complete and even has some incorrect entries such as Forli, Italy which does not have the new imagery. It doesn’t even have some well known locations such as London, UK, which do have the new imagery.
The Wikipedia page for Google Earth also has a list of the new 3D areas, although it relies on helpful people noticing new areas and updating the list, and it, too, is not completely accurate. It does not, at the time of writing, include Győr, Hungary, and does not have all the entries from the Google list, such as Olbia, Italy, for example.
So, we decided to create a KML file combining all the locations from the Wikipedia page, and the list from Google, and a couple of extras that aren’t in either list. And here it is!
We have included locations as given in the two lists, as well as the regions covered by 3D. We have made the KML a network link so that we can continually update it as we discover new areas.
Note that we have not included places that have the older type of automatically generated buildings that load as individual buildings. The newer method loads as a single mesh covering a whole area. Also note that the older type of 3D model does not display in ‘Earth Mode’ in the new Google Maps.
The best coverage is in California, and the worst is in Africa and Asia. Alaska is, I think, the only US state with no locations covered, but with its largest community, Anchorage, having an estimated 298,610 residents in 2012, maybe it didn’t quite make the cut.
If you know of any places not in the KML, please let us know in the comments below.
Last week, on Tuesday, August 26, 2014, Google released a 64-bit version of Chrome which does not support 32-bit NPAPI plugins, including the Google Earth plugin. I have tried out the new 64-bit Chrome and can confirm that the plugin does not work. It does let you try to install it, but to no avail. And there are no appropriate error messages, so presumably sites using the Google Earth plugin can expect an increase in support calls.
Google Maps now has ‘Earth Mode’, which allows you to view satellite imagery and tilt the view to see it in 3D. It is based on WebGL, which is the modern way to do things. But it is not yet a replacement for the Google Earth Plugin:
- Its performance is terrible in comparison to the plugin.
- It lacks the ability to display KMLs other than via a complicated route through Google Earth Engine – which requires a licence, except for very small data-sets.
- It does not show 3D models – only the new type of 3D imagery that consists of a single mesh.
- Navigation is difficult, with less sophisticated controls than the plug-in.
It is likely, however, that improvements to the WebGL 3D in maps will be the way forward, although I have not seen any statements from Google as to what their plans for the future are.
Great sites like:
- Google Earth Flight Simulater Online, which we told you about in 2009
- A ship simulator from Planet in Action, which we also reported on in 2009.
- Also from Planet in Action the Apollo 11 Moon Lander game that we told you about in 2009.
- YoubeQ, a 3D social network in Google Earth we first featured in 2011 and they have been continually adding features since then.
- A driving simulator from Frame Synthesis we showed you in 2012.
and many others we have talked about over the years, will be impossible to make without the Google Earth plugin.
Flight Simulator Online
youbeQ, a free multiplayer driving and flight simulator
So if you are still using a browser that works with the plugin, then try them out while you still can! [UPDATE by Frank Taylor: you can install the 64-bit version of Chrome and also still keep the 32-bit version of Chrome installed. So you can keep running the GE-plugin on Chrome. Or, you can run another compatible browser such as Firefox.]
The post 64-bit Chrome drops support for Google Earth Plugin appeared first on Google Earth Blog.
We told you a couple of weeks ago about an imagery update on August 5th. Since then, Google has done at least two more updates, on August 13th and August 26th. Thanks to GEB readers André and ‘Munden’ for alerting us.
Google has updated their map and the second one was a particularly large update. As of this writing, the last update is in Google Maps but not yet in Google Earth.
Google Earth Imagery Update August 13th, 2014 – Larger version
Google Earth Imagery Update August 26th, 2014 – Larger version
Oddly enough, there doesn’t seem to be any way to permanently save the KML for the map so the only record I have of the August 13th update is a screen shot (top image above).
It is possible, from the Maps Gallery page, to download a KML. However, it contains a special type of network link proprietary to Google which displays the KML in ‘Layers’ rather than ‘My Places’, which is where KMLs loaded into Google Earth normally appear. Also, it doesn’t work in older versions of Google Earth. Most importantly, it does not remain across sessions and there appears to be no way to save it. Furthermore, being a network link, even if you save the downloaded KML, when Google updates the map, what you see is the newest map and you can no-longer view the old map. I am guessing that the purpose of this special type of network link is to allow Google Earth Enterprise customers to enable their users to view their maps without allowing them to copy all the data as KML.
Another interesting aspect of this update is some patches of imagery off the west coast of Australia in the region of the search area for Flight MH370. Google Maps does not show imagery in the oceans by any mechanism that I know of. Google Earth does show imagery in the oceans if you turn on ‘Historical Imagery’, but since the update is not yet in Google Earth, there is currently no way to view this imagery!
The post New Google Earth Imagery – August 13th and 26th, 2014 appeared first on Google Earth Blog.
August saw a number of data updates from Google including new Street View imagery in Indonesia and Cambodia, and satellite imagery from around the globe. The launch by DigitalGlobe of their WorldView-3 satellite, and subsequent release of its first images, means the future of satellite imagery looks bright.
Here are some of my favorite stories of the month:
Four of the ten have 3D models in Google Earth
We also brought you a story about using Goats to combat wildfire in Southern California.
Which was your favorite story in August?
Burning Man is a cartographer’s nightmare, because it is a city that is built within a matter of days, lasts for a couple weeks, then completely disappears, only to re-emerge the next year in a slightly different place, with a slightly different layout, and altogether new street names.
The official website provides an official map for this year, and for previous years. However, there is an unnofficial version to be found on Google Maps Engine here. When viewed in Google Maps, it is rather clunky unless you deselect most of the points of interest. However, it can be viewed in Google Earth by downloading this KML file. The Google Maps street map has also been updated to this year’s layout and street names, so remember to turn on the ‘roads’ layer.
Also be sure to check out Google Earth’s historical imagery showing the event in 2006, 2009 (two different days), 2010 (four consecutive days) ,2012 and 2013.
You can also watch a live webcast of Burning Man on USTREAM. (Warning: includes audio and may contain bad language.)
We told you a couple of weeks ago about the launch of DigitalGlobe’s latest satellite, WorldView-3.
On Tuesday, August 18, less than two weeks after its launch, they released the first images from the satellite. Thanks to GEB reader Cesaley Sparks for alerting us to it. The satellite is capable of producing imagery at a resolution of 30 cm per pixel, but because of regulatory restrictions, they have to resample it to 40 cm before releasing it.
Here is a slideshow they created showing what you can see with 40cm resolution.
Digital Globe has also provided a number of images taken around the airport in Madrid, Spain. We have created image overlays in Google Earth which you can download below:
Image 1 (20Mb 4000 x 5000 pixels)
Image 2 (3.8Mb 2000 x 2000 pixels)
Image 3 (5.2Mb 2000 x 2000 pixels)
Image 4 (3.3Mb 2000 x 2000 pixels)
Image 5 (4.5Mb 2000 x 2000 pixels)
Image 6 (4.2Mb 2000 x 2000 pixels)
Image 7 (4.6Mb 2000 x 2000 pixels)
Image 8 (5.3Mb 2000 x 2000 pixels)
Image 9 (5.4Mb 2000 x 2000 pixels)
To my eyes, the image quality looks comparable to what is already in Google Earth at that location, which I believe is aerial imagery captured from aircraft. Although it will always be possible to get higher quality imagery from aircraft than from satellites, the big advantage of satellites is the global coverage and the regularity with which they can capture imagery. Despite the enormous cost of building and launching satellites, it is still considerably cheaper than a global fleet of aircraft constantly taking photos. The data sheet for WorldView-3 states that it is capable of capturing 680,000 km² per day. That seems a lot until you look up the surface area of the Earth and it comes to 510,072,000 km².
Another very interesting fact was that DigitalGlobe managed to capture images of WorldView-3’s launch using another of their satellites, WorldView-1. See the gif animation they made with the images here..
The post Digital Globe releases first images from WorldView-3 appeared first on Google Earth Blog.
The popular British TV Series “Dr Who” Series 8’s premiere episode aired on Saturday, August 23, 2014. The series features a blue British police box known as the TARDIS (Time and Relative Dimension in Space).
If you search for the address “236 Earls Court Road W.8, London, United Kingdom”, in Google Earth and make sure you turn on you the 3D buildings layer, you can see a 3D model of the TARDIS as seen below. (Or you can fly straight to it using this KML file)
If you enter street view at the exact location of the TARDIS model, you can see the inside of the TARDIS – which is considerably larger than the outside.
If you look around the area in Street View you will see that there really is a blue police box at that location.
We have previously brought you other stories of Google Street view in unusual places such as under the sea, the temples of Angkor Wat and a corn maize, but this is the first instance of Street View in a part of the world that is technically ‘not of this world’. If you know of any other unusual instances of Street View please let us know in the comments.
We have brought you many stories in the past involving Google Earth and wildfire. For example, stories about people and organizations using Google Earth to monitor wildfires in progress, coordinate rescue operations, map global fire data and simulate forest fires.
But, prevention is better than cure, so to take it a step further, here is a story about how Shea Broussard and business partner Tony Shafer created FlameMapper.
Using historical data of fire paths, they map out the ideal places to graze the goats so as to stop wildfires from spreading. They use the Google Earth plugin to display the map on their website and use GPS and the map to decide where to place electric fencing which is moved around to control where the goats graze. The electric fencing also helps to keep mountain lions from eating the goats, but despite this they have lost 5 goats to a local mountain lion over the last 2 years.
The site also shows the current location of the goats. They do not track the mountain lions….
Has it worked? According to Shane:
We have yet to have a big wildfire come through the community. We are about 2 years overdue for a wildfire when you look at the fire history.”
Carefully planned grazing is not the only thing they are doing to prevent fire, they are also planting lots of Oak trees.
We are currently growing 12,000 Oak trees with the Los Angeles County Fire Department Forest Division. Oak trees simply reduce fire intensity. Reduced fire intensity can save lives.”
My sister is a farmer in Livingstone, Zambia, and she too uses goats for creating fire breaks. She doesn’t have anything as sophisticated as FlameMapper, but does use Google Earth and GPS for planning where to put the fire breaks.
With the successful launch of the imaging satellite WorldView-3 by DigitalGlobe recently, featuring the latest technology in satellite imaging, it is a good time to take a look at where it all started.
The very first aerial photograph was taken from balloon by the French photographer and balloonist Gaspard-Félix Tournachon, in 1858 over Paris, France. However, the photographs he produced no longer exist and therefore the earliest surviving aerial photograph is titled ‘Boston, as the Eagle and the Wild Goose See It’ and was taken by James Wallace Black in 1860, also from a balloon.
Kite aerial photography was pioneered by British meteorologist E.D. Archibald in 1882.
The most interesting method of aerial photography is pigeon photography, a technique invented in 1907.
By World War I aerial imagery taken from aircraft was being used for reconnaissance and the technology matured rapidly as a result.
The first images from space were taken in 1946 from a suborbital U.S.-launched V-2 rocket.
In 1972 the United States started the Landsat program, the largest program for acquisition of imagery of Earth from space.
Historical imagery was introduced to Google Earth with version 5 in 2009.
The oldest imagery that can currently be found in Google Earth is from 1930, near Toronto, Canada. To view it in Google Earth you need to turn on “Historical Imagery” pan to the region around Toronto, Canada, then move the slider all the way to the left and the imagery will show up as black and white areas, or simply download this KML file. There is also quite a lot of historical imagery from the Second World War in parts of Europe, with significant portions of the UK having imagery from 1945 or earlier.
It is important to note that although satellite imaging has many advantages, for the highest resolution aerial imagery, airplanes are still used today and most of the high resolution imagery in Google Earth was captured from aircraft.
We told you in April about Street View imagery in Cambodia around the temples of Angkor Wat. Now, Google have released imagery for much of the rest of Cambodia, as well as a significant amount in Indonesia, although the Indonesian imagery appears to be almost entirely on the islands of Java and Bali. Thanks to GEB reader IxBxTx for alerting us to the update.
According to this article Google set up a fleet of Street View cars in Indonesia, back in 2012. All the imagery I checked in both countries was dated some time in 2013, so maybe it has taken a while to process the imagery, or they had to wait for approval from local authorities. It apparently took 4 years to get approval in Greece which finally got Street View in June this year.
Interesting transportation in Phnom Penh, Cambodia
A scenic roundabout in Badung, Bali, Indonesia
Street View coverage for Cambodia. Note that Thailand already had Street View.
Street View coverage for Indonesia.
[Update: The map and KML in this post automatically updates as Google updates their Maps Gallery version. As of this update, the map being displayed is for August 13th, 2014.]
It appears Google pushed out some fresh imagery updates a couple of weeks ago. Thanks to sharp-eyed GEB reader ‘Maarten’ for letting us know about it.
To see which areas have been updated, see the map below from Google’s Maps Gallery.
You can also view it in Google Earth, using this KML file. The new imagery is in both Google Earth and Google Maps.
It is important to remember that although the update was done on August 5th, the actual imagery is slightly older. Most of it seems to have been taken some time in the last two years, although some is quite recent – where I live in Cape Town, South Africa, the new imagery is from June 11th, 2014.
Here’s a fun use of Google Earth and GPS — tracking cats. It started when Tiana Warner at safe.com found out about a way to track cats:
Where do cats go when they’re outside all day and night? What do they do? How do they entertain themselves? Is there a secret cat meeting place in every major city? When Safers found out about Cat Tracker, we couldn’t resist.
The result is pretty neat.
While it’s mostly a fun little project, the technology behind it is remarkably complex. Get the GPS data from Movebank in JSON format, flatten it, create a “convex hull” around the main area, clean up GPS anomalies, rank the cats based on travel area sizes, then push it out via KML. Here is a KML file to view it for yourself in Google Earth.
You can read more on the Safe Software Blog.
Back in 2005 Julian Bayliss, a biologist at London’s Kew Gardens, discovered a brand new rainforest that had previously never been studied — and he found it using Google Earth. We told you about it in May this year, and you can watch a short video about the discovery below.
Since then, many new species have been discovered at the location, known as Mozambique’s ‘sky islands’, including a snake, a butterfly, and most recently, the recent discovery of four new pygmy chameleon species.
Rhampholeon nebulauctor. Credit: Julian Bayliss.
Rhampholeon tilburyi. Credit: Krystal A. Tolley.
Rampholeon Maspictus. Credit: William R. Branch.
Rhampholeon Bruessoworum. Credit: Julian Bayliss.
Find the full story on Fauna & Flora International.
The post Google Earth instrumental in discovery of new chameleon species appeared first on Google Earth Blog.
We have told you in the past about various news stories reporting apparent alien activity in Google Earth imagery. For example, this story, where sonar tracks from ships were mistaken for an underwater alien base. Or this story where a combination of lighting and image artifacts makes a crater on the moon look like an alien space ship. And, then, there was the secret Mars base. Which, again, is most likely just a result of image artifacts making an ordinary geographical feature look suspiciously regular.
The latest such story comes from a YouTube video posted by YouTuber wowforreeel which has gained over five million views in under a month. It features this image, which at first glance appears to be a human shaped object and its shadow.
However, a quick look at the scale bar at the bottom left reveals that the figure, if real, would have to be hundreds of feet high. So, instead of a human, it would be more like a Colossus as suggested by this article.
A careful look at the surrounding craters reveals that the light in the image is coming from near the bottom of the image and so the apparent shadow is in the wrong direction.
This article on pix11.com quotes a NASA scientist Noah Petro, as saying:
My best guess,” Petro said in a statement to PIX11, “is that it’s something (dust, an eyelash, scratch on the negative) that was on the film. Remember, this was in the pre-digital days when all sorts of nasty things could happen to film.”
So, as with the previous stories, the explanation has to do with how the images were acquired rather than an actual feature on the Moon, but it’s an interesting find nevertheless.
If you wish to see it in Google Earth for yourself, switch to Moon view, and enter these co-ordinates 27°34’26.35″N 19°36’4.75″W in the search box, or you can simply use this KML file to fly to it directly in Google Earth.
The Google Earth Blog was started in 2005, by Frank Taylor (that’s me), shortly after Google first released Google Earth. I wrote hundreds of blog posts during the next 4.5 years until my wife and I departed on a 5+ year expedition, called the Tahina Expedition, to circumnavigate the Earth by sailboat on our catamaran Tahina. Since I would not be able to maintain the work for blogging Google Earth Blog (GEB), I was lucky to hire on Mickey Mellen to continue writing.
For more than 4.5 years since that time, Mickey Mellen has done a fantastic job of continuing the GEB tradition. I have been thrilled with the way he has maintained the GEB and helped our readers learn about the many features, news, and types of content available for Google Earth. Meanwhile, my wife and I have sailed two thirds of the way around the world and are nearly across the Indian Ocean expecting to get back to the US next year. As mentioned at the start of August, Mickey is a partner in a growing web development agency (called GreenMellen Media) and he gave me plenty of time to find a new writer. I wish Mickey the best of luck with his venture, and greatly appreciate his professional help during the past nearly 5 years, and with the transition to our next writer.
Today, we have a new writer for the GEB who has been using Google Earth since the early days – back when it was called Keyhole at the time Google bought the company and made it into Google Earth. Timothy Whitehead lives in Cape Town, South Africa, but originally comes from Zambia. He is a software developer who has used Google Earth for some of his projects (which maybe he can tell you about in some future post). Timothy is eager to share his enthusiasm for Google Earth on this blog during at least the next year while my wife and I finish our circumnavigation.
Please thank Mickey for his great job! And please welcome Timothy to Google Earth Blog!
Google Earth can be great for planning trips of any kind, including those by boat. More than seven years ago Frank was showing us 3D cruise ship tracking, and there have been other great cruising resources over the years. Of course, there is also the great tools that Frank is using as he sails around the world aboard the Tahina.
Doug Logan recently wrote an article on Boat Trader that shows some great ways to use Google Earth to help plan your next trip. As Doug says:
…it’s hard to beat sitting at my desk with a big monitor, loading up Google Earth, and plotting a complete cruise with the best satellite imagery in the civilian world and really simple, intuitive screen tools. For free.
The techniques that Doug uses aren’t overly complex or unique, but they’re a solid example of how you can use the native tools in Google Earth to help plan what you need to do.
Be sure to check out this full article on Boat Trader. Good work Doug!
Since the early days of Google Earth, people have looked for ways to use it to enhance real estate searches and information. You can go all the way back to 2005 to see an example that Frank posted, and it was just a month ago that we showed you some great tools from Jason Fox.
There is a company called CityRealty that is doing some interesting things with Google Earth that we thought we’d take a look at. By using Google Earth’s 3D imagery, then laying information and photos on top of it, you end up with a pretty slick way to view a city.
It’s not as interactive as I’d like to see (you can click around the map, but the imagery is static), but it’s a great way to show off a city.
In their press release, Daniel Levy, President of CityRealty, explained the new site as follows:
“Looking for an apartment in New York City can be daunting, and our new site is designed to turn the housing search in the most complex real estate market in the world into a simple, streamlined experience for those looking to make New York home. It’s our hope that our new and improved online resources, coupled with our tailored agent recommendations, will seamlessly guide customers from the start of the search to the moment they get their keys.”
DigitalGlobe, one of the leading providers of imagery for Google Earth, is launching their new WorldView-3 satellite in a few hours. It is scheduled to launch at 11:29am PDT today from Vandenberg Air Force Base, and you can watch a live broadcast of the launch here.
The new satellite will feature some great enhancements over previous ones, including:
- Will capture imagery at 31 cm resolution, the highest available resolution on the market. This allows you to see not only a car, but the windshield and the direction the car is going. Something as small as home plate can be seen with 31 cm resolution.
- Due to its shortwave infrared sensor, the satellite can actually image through haze, fog, dust, smoke and other air-born particulates.
- Beyond crop mapping, this satellite will actually be able to identify moisture levels, differentiate between healthy and unhealthy crops, and even classify species on the ground.
- The satellite can identify types of minerals on the earth’s surface
- It can identify not only a tree’s class and species, but its health as well
It should be a great step forward for imaging, and ultimately for Google Earth. Check out the infographic below for an overview of the satellite, visit worldview3.digitalglobe.com for more information, and watch the launch live in a few hours.
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