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Will Google update imagery upon request?

jeu 02-10-2014

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

The post Will Google update imagery upon request? appeared first on Google Earth Blog.

Catégories: Sites Anglophones

Google My Maps vs Google Maps

mer 01-10-2014

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.

Google Maps

  • 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.]

The post Google My Maps vs Google Maps appeared first on Google Earth Blog.

Catégories: Sites Anglophones

The best of Google Earth for September 2014

mar 30-09-2014

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?

The post The best of Google Earth for September 2014 appeared first on Google Earth Blog.

Catégories: Sites Anglophones

More analysis of 3D Imagery

lun 29-09-2014

When Google first announced the automatically generated 3D imagery, they said it was generated via stereophotogrammetry from aerial imagery. In our recent post about 3D imagery featuring cruise ships, we explained that it involves taking pictures from different angles and using that to automatically generate the 3D structure. The result of this is that moving objects cannot be captured by this technique. To understand the implications, lets have a look at a few examples around Charles de Gaulle Airport near Paris, France.


Above left: A moving aircraft on the runway has no 3D at all. Above right: A stationary aircraft is in 3D.


When the aircraft moved during image capturing, we get ghostly effects.

The technique used for creating the 3D does not handle over hangs at all well, which is one reason for even stationary aircraft not looking very good. It is also very noticeable on bridges, and the way trees tend to look like bushes with vertical sides rather than a trunk with overhanging branches.


This water tower demonstrates the problem with overhangs. Above left: Water tower in Street View. Above right: Water tower in 3D.

The water tower above shows six distinct images were used to create the faces of the tower, and possibly a seventh for the top. Two of the faces have much greener grass, and the towers shadow is in a completely different direction so they were taken at a different time of day, from the other four faces.

We have put all the above locations into a KML file. It also includes a number of other notable locations around the world, demonstrating that for intricate structures, Google often manually improves on the models. This is one reason why certain locations take longer to release than others. Bridges, particularly, seem to get a lot of attention, so cities with a large river and lots of bridges can expect to take longer than others.


For more interesting effects, look at one of the above aircraft in Google Maps Earth View by clicking here then try tilting the view and watch the aircraft disappear. Next, rotate the view and see how the aircraft is only partly there.

Also have a look at this aircraft. Note how the same aircraft is parked there in overhead view and the tilted view, but as you rotate, the baggage trucks are in different locations.

If you do not see the compass and ’tilt’ buttons in Google Maps, then it is most likely that you are in Maps’ Lite mode. You can find the minimum system requirements for seeing 3D in Google Maps here.

The post More analysis of 3D Imagery appeared first on Google Earth Blog.

Catégories: Sites Anglophones

Argentina and Malaysia now in Street View

ven 26-09-2014

Argentina has just been added to Street View and there has been a significant increase in the coverage in Malaysia. Thanks to GEB reader Dave for letting us know. Earlier in the Week, the territory of Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands were added. Thanks to GEB readers Martin and Kyle. GEB reader Dave also tells us some locations in the US have been added, including Mason and Grand Ledge, Michigan. If you know of any other areas, please let us know in the comments.


Street View coverage in Argentina and Malaysia.

The last major update we reported were the additions of Cambodia and Indonesia last month. Google, as far as we are aware, do not publish a list of changes, but they do have a map of the current coverage. Wikipedia maintains a useful timeline of updates.

Despite being recently released, a few locations in Argentina contain historical Street View. According to Wikipedia Google announced in September 2013 that Street View would be coming to Argentina, so it appears that the cars have been driving for the past year, as confirmed by the dates for the location below.


This location in Buenos Aires was photographed eight times in the last year.


See the seasons change in historical Street View.

The post Argentina and Malaysia now in Street View appeared first on Google Earth Blog.

Catégories: Sites Anglophones

Moving to the new My Maps

jeu 25-09-2014

Back in 2007 Google first introduced My Maps which allowed anyone to create and share their own maps directly in the Google Maps interface. Since then Google Maps has received a significant upgrade which went live for all users in February this year. The older version, now referred to as ‘classic Google Maps’, still exists and if necessary you can switch back to it by clicking on the question mark in the lower right hand corner of the new Maps, and selecting ‘Return to classic Google Maps’.

Separately, Google created Google Maps Engine, formerly known as Google Earth Builder, which was initially targeted at enterprise customers and later extended for use by nonprofits and researchers in the Google Earth Outreach program. In March last year, Google introduced Maps Engine Lite, a free version of Maps Engine. In October last year, it introduced Maps Engine Pro, a paid for version targeted at small businesses. These last two products were recently renamed My Maps Pro, and My Maps.


Maps Gallery is the place to find maps that users have created and shared publicly.

People who had created custom maps were, until recently, mostly still using the classic My Maps. However, Google is encouraging users to switch over to the new My Maps, and in the near future will transition everyone automatically.

One such user is George Stiller, the creator of MyReadingMapped, an excellent site with a lot of Maps content that we have featured no less than 17 times in the past. For a list of those articles, click here. George decided last week to take the plunge and switch over to the new maps before being automatically upgraded. He has blogged about his experience and I highly recommend that anyone who is facing the upgrade read through his blog posts so that you know what to expect.

The post Moving to the new My Maps appeared first on Google Earth Blog.

Catégories: Sites Anglophones

Google Earth drone control

mer 24-09-2014

After our post on drones, GEB reader Satyen Sarhad (creator of Geoception that we looked at back in 2012), pointed us to a couple of Ground Control Station systems for drones that make excellent use of the Google Earth plugin.

Open source software HappyKillmore’s Ground Control Station is focused on being easy to use and working well on low resolution screens. The primary purpose of the software appears to be to monitor a drone in flight. It displays the data that is received from the drone on the various instruments displayed and also shows the position, attitude and path of the drone in the Google Earth plugin display. You can also download a number of 3D models of drones for use in the software. It can show a live video feed from the drone. Although it can be used to set up a mission with way points, it doesn’t appear to allow direct manual control of the drone.


Chase Camera view

Above: HappyKillmore’s Ground Control Station in action.

Another YouTube video with a vertical perspective showing the flight path can be found here.

Open source project QGroundControl allows you to create a mission by setting way-points by clicking directly on the Google Earth plugin.

Above: QGroundControl Ground Control Station features.

Check out their website for more videos showing its capabilities.

Both programs make good use of the capabilities of the Google Earth plugin, including different perspectives, the ability to work offline and the ability to display 3D models. Also of note is that they use the plugin directly and are not dependent on web browser support, so they should continue to work even if web browsers start to drop support for the plugin.

The post Google Earth drone control appeared first on Google Earth Blog.

Catégories: Sites Anglophones

3D Updates in Google Earth

mar 23-09-2014

A few weeks ago we created a KML of all the known areas covered by the automatically generated 3D mesh that Google is rolling out in Google Earth, and followed that up with some fun with the stats of the areas covered. Since then, we have been receiving regular finds from GEB readers. Last weekend was a particularly large batch with around 40 new areas. Our readers reported that at least two of the areas, La Rochelle and Clermont–Ferrand both in France, were available previously but had been temporarily removed.

So, given all this new eye candy, lets have a look at one of the locations and see what can be seen. We picked Bergen, Norway. The new 3D imagery generation depends on taking pictures from different angles and using that to automatically generate the 3D structure. This means that moving objects cannot be captured. It seems to do particularly badly with water, as the water is constantly moving and has a changing texture. However, cruise ships docked in harbor seem to be stable enough for fairly good imagery. We were able to quickly identify two of them because their names are actually just legible – something we were never able to see on ordinary overhead imagery. There is a third cruise ship in harbor that we were not able to identify so easily.


The cruise ship Richard With.


The cruise ship AIDAcara.

Prior to the 3D mesh update, there was a 3D model of another ship the Costa Medterranea made by LadZ who has made quite a number of ship models that you can see in the SketchUp 3D Warehouse.


The cruise ship Costa Medterranea.

Back in 2005, we pointed you to a network linked KML showing the current locations of all Costa Cruise ships and amazingly, it still works! However, we found that if you leave it running for a while it can crash Google Earth. You can use it to find the location of the Costa Medterranea above. We also showed you in 2009, an excellent site Marine Traffic that shows the current positions of nearly 70,000 ships, including locations of Richard With and AIDAcara.

And for cruise ship enthusiasts out there, at least two more are visible from Street View.

Recently found locations with 3D imagery are:

Belgium: Antwerp
Denmark: Esbjerg
France: Ajaccio, Auxerre, Montpellier, Montauban, Carcassonne, Strasbourg, Bordeaux, Clermont-Ferrand, Albi, Roanne, Tarbes, Vannes, Laval, Gujan-Mestras, La Rochelle, Quimper, La Roche-sur-Yon, Cholet
Germany: Stuttgart, Schweinfurt
Greece: Argostolion
Ireland: Dublin
Italy: Milan, Piacenza, Pavia, Syracuse, Parma.
New Zealand: Auckland
Norway: Stavanger, Bergen, Brevik / Eikstrand / Porsgrunn / Skien, Lillehammer
Spain: Cuenca, Jerez
Sweden: Norrköping, Växjö, Karlstad
USA: Oklahoma City(OK), Memphis (TN), Expansion to New York, Alexandria (LA)

And a big thank you to all contributors so far:
GEB readers ΜaNos ΠαΝ. ΠαπαΝικοΛάου, David Timpe, ehog, bubollofo, Jonah, Anxo, Uri, alfski, Rogério Coelho, jebster, Anton Rudolfsson, CB, Sebastien, Chris, ChrisAjayi, Frank, Ryan, Wikipedia editors.

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Catégories: Sites Anglophones

Skybox Imaging captures Burning Man

lun 22-09-2014

Last month we covered the Burning Man festival, and how the event has been captured by satellite imagery a number of times, with the images available in Google Earth’s Historical Imagery. It turns out that this year’s event was also captured on 8 different days – this time with Google’s own satellites! Thanks to GEB reader Eric for letting us know.

The images were taken by SkySat-1 and SkySat-2 owned by Skybox Imaging, which Google acquired earlier this year. Skybox have released the images via the Maps Gallery, as well as creating a number of animated gif images shown on their official blog. You can also read more about it on TechCrunch.


A gif animation of the Burning Man festival created by Skybox Imaging.

It is possible to view the images in Google Earth using this kml file from the Maps Gallery.

Skybox currently has two satellites, but is planning a constellation of 24. SkySat-1 also captured the first HD resolution video of Earth from space as seen in the YouTube video below. For the best results be sure to watch it in high resolution and full screen.

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Catégories: Sites Anglophones

Censoring in Google Earth

ven 19-09-2014

In the early days of Google Earth the US White House and Capitol Building were blurred in Google Earth. But in 2005 this censorship was stopped, and today, there is high quality satellite imagery, 3D models of the buildings, and you can even explore the White House in Street View.

The most pervasive form of censorship in the imagery today, is a result of antiquated US regulations that place a restriction on the the maximum resolution that commercial satellite imagery companies are allowed to sell to their customers. Thankfully, this restriction is being relaxed over time, with Digital Globe announcing in June that the restriction had been reduced from a maximum resolution of 50 cm, to 40 cm, with a further reduction to 25 cm in February 2015. The key reason for the relaxation, is that several other countries are launching satellites with competitive resolutions and maintaining the regulations would not only serve no useful purpose, but also make US satellite imagery providers uncompetitive.

The above restriction on satellite imagery, does not apply to aerial imagery, and since much of the globes’ more densely populated regions now has aerial imagery, that is often the default imagery in Google Earth. However, aerial imagery comes from a variety of different providers, and sometimes that imagery is censored by the local government before it is given to Google.


A censored location in the Netherlands. Uncensored satellite imagery for the location can be found in Google Earth’s Historical Imagery.

Google Street view is censored for privacy reasons in a number of ways. Some countries refuse to allow it, or delay its publication while they consider the implications. Some communities, such as North Oaks Minnesota, have got it removed for the whole community. Individual users can also request to have specific images removed or blurred. Google uses image recognition software to automatically blur faces and car number plates. For more on Street View censorship see the Wikipedia Page

So, apart from the US government regulations mentioned above, how widespread is direct censorship of aerial and satellite imagery these days? If you look around on the web, there are plenty of articles listing examples of ‘censored’ imagery, but when you actually go through the list, about half the locations are merely cases of Google lacking high quality imagery for the location, with no good reason to think that it has been censored. However, there are a number of locations that are clearly censored by different pixelation methods, by completely wiping the location out, or in rare cases, using sneaky techniques like pasting imagery from somewhere else over the location.


Censorship can be ineffective if there are other sources of imagery beyond your control. Above left, aerial imagery taken in the Netherlands and censored. Above right, the same location taken by Digital Globe, a US satellite imagery provider not subject to Netherlands law.

Good comprehensive lists are surprisingly rare, and the best list we could find was on Wikipedia and it sensibly qualifies its claims as including both censored and ‘unclear’ areas. It turns out there are surprisingly few locations with known censored imagery, and for most of those there is reasonably good uncensored satellite imagery available. About a third of the locations are from aerial imagery taken in the Netherlands in 2005.

We have made a KML for your convenience including all the locations from the Wikipedia page that have coordinates, and that we think do show strong evidence of censorship. There are also some locations mentioned in the article but without coordinates given and we have included one or two, but not all. If any of our readers knows of a more comprehensive list, or even better, a list designed for exploring in Google Earth, let us know and we will update this post with a link to it.

[ Update: Thank you to GEB reader Hill, for letting us know in the comments that there is a much more comprehensive list in the Google Earth Community Forums including a KML file Check only the “Censorship” box, and remember that the censorship may, in some cases, only be in the Historical Imagery. ]

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Catégories: Sites Anglophones

Mapping with Google Map Maker

jeu 18-09-2014

In last week’s post about the Ground Truth Project we told you how Google Map Maker is a key component of Google’s strategy to achieve more accurate maps – and keep them accurate. When Google introduced Map Maker to the public back in 2008, it was initially only available in a small number of countries, but over the years its has been made available in more and more places. The relevant Map Maker support page lists 227 countries or locations where it is now available. Some of the few remaining countries not yet covered are: Colombia, Chile, Argentina, Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Turkey, China, Thailand, Indonesia, South Korea and Japan.

Zambia is one of those countries where the Ground Truth Project has not yet got to, so its maps depends almost entirely on Map Maker. I was recently asked by my sister, who lives in Livingstone, Zambia, if I would update some street names in Google Earth. The streets are in a fairly new development, and the local council has recently put up some street signs, so she wrote down the names of some of the streets and sent them to me.

When I first used Google Map Maker, every edit had to be reviewed by someone else before it went live, but over time, I have been allowed to make some changes without them waiting for review. So when I added street names to roads that were unnamed, the changes were reflected in Google Maps immediately. However, a few of the roads were not in Google Maps, so I had to add the roads as well as name them and this had to be reviewed, which took about a week. As you can see below there are still a lot more streets without names, so perhaps next time I am in Livingstone I will go around and collect the names of all unlabeled streets that do have street signs, or perhaps I will ask the local City Council if they can give me an official map.

One interesting thing I have noticed though is that although the streets show in Google Maps immediately, they cannot be found when doing a search. Other streets nearby do show up in search results, including ones that I have personally added the names for in the past. I am guessing that it takes a while for new additions to get into the search database.

If one of our readers is a Map Maker aficionado, maybe they can let us know if this is a correct guess, and if so, how long it typically takes to for names to get into search.

It used to be the case that changes made in Map Maker would eventually filter through to Google Earth. However, I corrected the name of a major road (Airport Road) in that area in January of this year and it still shows the old name in Google Earth (Libala Drive). However if you search for ‘Airport Road’ in Google Earth, it finds the correct road.

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Catégories: Sites Anglophones

Flying around with Blue Magpie Tea in Taiwan

mer 17-09-2014

Over the years we’ve seen some great files come from Steven Ho, such as his panorama from the top of Mount Everest, his tribute to Steve Jobs and his Trip View Bowl visualization. He’s back with another one, which follows the path of a blue magpie as it flies along the Xindieng River, to promote eco-friendly tea farms.

The unique part of this is the way he controls the camera during the flight. Steven says it was quite challenging to control the perspective like a movie scene. If you just keep the bird in the same position on the screen the results are inferior. So he has the camera move around the bird to get different perspectives, with the bird even going off camera for brief periods. Also, to get the bird to appear properly in Google Earth he enlarged it several hundred times, which has the added benefit of making it easier to control the perspective.

You can try it for yourself by loading this KML file, or read the full write-up on his blog.

Great work, Steven!

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Catégories: Sites Anglophones

SketchUp 3D Warehouse URL issues

mar 16-09-2014

Back in 2012 Google sold SketchUp, the excellent 3D modeling tool that was used to make most of the older 3D models found in Google Earth. In October 2013, Google stopped importing models from the SketchUp 3D Warehouse, and now solely rely on automatic generation methods for 3D imagery.

Earlier this year the 3D Warehouse was completely revamped by new owner Trimble. Also, at some point, the URL for the warehouse has changed from the Google domain (sketchup.google.com/3dwarehouse/) to a the sketchup.com domain (3dwarehouse.sketchup.com).

Google has implemented redirects on the former URLs, but they are not all working correctly. The result is that links that we created in the past to KML/KMZs of models in the 3D Warehouse no longer work correctly. Instead of being redirected to the download of the KML/KMZ, they get redirected to the SketchUp model (.skp) download instead.

Also, it seems most of the links within Google Earth relating to 3D models are broken. If you click on a 3D model, a popup shows more information about the model. It used to display a small picture of the model on the right, but now there is just a question mark. In addition, almost all the links in the popup are supposed to direct you to the 3D warehouse, but most of them do not work correctly.

If you have links to KML/KMZ files on your website then it is not difficult to correct them. Each model has a unique ID that has not changed. A typical old URL will look like this:

http://sketchup.google.com/3dwarehouse/download?mid=2fc1bb50f5aaf8ab91735325f76051&rtyp=k2&fn=Stadhuis+1&ctyp=other&prevstart=0

To fix it:

  • Copy the unique ID shown in bold above.
  • Search for it in the Sketchup 3D Warehouse.
  • Click on the ‘Download’ button, and you should see two options, the Sketchup model and the KML/KMZ file.
  • Right click on the KML/KMZ link and select ‘copy link address’ (or your browser’s equivalent).
  • Replace your old link with this URL.

The new link should look something like this:

https://3dwarehouse.sketchup.com/warehouse/getpubliccontent?contentId=57bca5fd-1c8d-4e4f-a8a7-ca4985b230c3&fn=Stadhuis-1.kmz

Although the ‘report a problem’ link on the 3D building popup does not work correctly, we did use Google Earths ‘report a problem’ feature to let Google know about this issue.

The post SketchUp 3D Warehouse URL issues appeared first on Google Earth Blog.

Catégories: Sites Anglophones

Aerial imagery from drones

lun 15-09-2014

Back in 2007 we took a look at the concept of capturing aerial imagery from drones. Since then a lot of progress has been made in drone and camera technology. Now it is no longer the technology that is an issue, but rather regulations surrounding the flying of drones. For example, we told you last year how Falcon UAV were assisting with the emergency response to flooding in Colorado, but were stopped by FEMA.


The senseFly eBee, an example of a commercially available drone capable of capturing aerial imagery and producing 3D elevation models.

In the US the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has strict rules regarding drones, especially around airports, flight paths, and populated areas. Drones operated for hobby and recreation purposes fall under a special exception and are subject to different restrictions, but may not be used for commercial purposes under this exception.

However, there have recently been some reports of drones being approved by the FAA for use in capturing aerial photography. For example, this article about Le Sueur county being the first county in Minnesota to get FAA approval for drone operations. However, even in that instance, there are still tough restrictions.

Here in South Africa drones are already being used for commercial filming and anti-poaching operations, and possibly in the near future, for crime prevention and disaster management. South Africa, however, also has strict rules about the use of drones, and many of the current users are probably breaking the law.

Drones have a significant cost advantage over manned aircraft, which means that aerial imagery can be captured much more frequently, as well as after natural disasters or other important events. As the use of drones for aerial imagery acquisition takes off around the world, we should start to see a major boost to both the quality of imagery as well as the frequency with which it is refreshed.

In April this year, Google acquired drone maker Titan Aerospace and it has been speculated that capturing aerial imagery may be one reason for the acquisition, although another possibility is that Google wants to use them for providing internet access similar to Project Loon.

Google has also been developing drones for use in delivery of goods, and they chose Australia for the tests because it has less restrictive rules for flying drones. For more on that project, see the video below.

Do any of our readers know whether any of the imagery currently in Google Earth was taken by drone?

The post Aerial imagery from drones appeared first on Google Earth Blog.

Catégories: Sites Anglophones

The Ground Truth project

ven 12-09-2014

We told you earlier in the week how the Google Maps data is not always 100% accurate. Google does, however, put in an extraordinary amount effort into making it the best it can be.

Google originally depended largely on external data providers for its maps information. But that changed in 2008 when project Ground Truth was founded. The Ground Truth project involves getting data from authoritative sources such as governments, postal services and map providers, which is then overlayed on satellite imagery and updated to make it more accurate. Google then uses satellite imagery and Street View imagery to add a lot more data to the map. It uses a variety of processes including a lot of manual editing by highly trained map editors, as well as a number of algorithmic methods, such as using computer vision to go through Street View imagery and pick out street signs, street names, business logos and more. Finally, they get feed back from users via the ‘Report a problem’ feature, or Google Map Maker.

It is important to realize that there is a lot more to maps than what you see directly in Google Maps. Google Maps also contains a lot of hidden information such as road rules, including speed limits, one way streets, traffic lights, stop/yield signs and no turn signs. These are used by Google maps when providing directions.


Google Maps contains a lot more than just street names.

The Ground Truth project is not yet used for the whole world, but they have been expanding rapidly. Ground Truth recently announced their 50th country. For the remaining countries they use a combination of external data providers and Google Map Maker.

For a more in depth look at the Ground Truth project watch this excellent presentation from Google I/O 2013 and read a four part series on the making of maps on the Google Lat Long Blog. (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4)

The post The Ground Truth project appeared first on Google Earth Blog.

Catégories: Sites Anglophones

Remembering 9/11 with Google Earth

jeu 11-09-2014

We have talked about the anniversary of 9/11 a number of times in the past, including 2006, 2010, 2011 (a three part series 1 2 3), 2012 and 2013. We also followed the progress of the new World Trade Center buildings in May 2010 and May 2012.

The 3D imagery in New York is still the same as it was last year, with the ‘new’ type of 3D imagery actually showing slightly less progress on the buildings than the older type of 3D, which can be viewed by going to ‘historical imagery’. However, Historical Street View was introduced in April 2014, so we can now show you the progress of the building of the new World Trade Center using Street View.


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The new World Trade Center over time in Street View.

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Catégories: Sites Anglophones

Google Earth in Google Earth

mer 10-09-2014

We have in the past looked at artwork in Google Earth, such as the worlds largest finger print and face art or sculptures in the Sahara by D.A.ST. Arteam. Some artists have even created roof top murals with the specific intention of having them viewed in Google Earth.

We recently came across this article which shows a mural of Google Earth on an intersection in Chanute, Kansas. So we had a look in Google Earth, and sure enough, it is visible in the satellite imagery.


Main & Lincoln intersection, Chanute, Kansas, USA. Grab the KML here.

It turns out that a mural was originally painted in May 2010 when the City of Chanute was promoting itself to Google as a choice for a fiber optics to the home project. See this YouTube video for more. The campaign was ultimately unsuccessful.

Inspiration for the mural, according to the official Chanute website, came from the fact that

Chanute, Kansas is the center of Google Earth on a Mac computer because the software developer, Dan Webb, was from Chanute.”

The original painting must have worn out as it is not visible in the Google Earth historical imagery for September 2010 and February 2012.

However, it was recreated as a permanent brick paver mural in September 2012 as part of a larger project upgrading the intersection and sidewalks.


The mural as seen in Street View

The post Google Earth in Google Earth appeared first on Google Earth Blog.

Catégories: Sites Anglophones

Fun with KML areas

mar 09-09-2014

Last week we released a KML showing the cities covered by the new type of 3D that Google has been producing.

We thought it would be interesting to see how much area has been covered.


Tokyo, Japan, has the largest single area of 3D in Google Earth

Google Earth, does not have any built in feature to allow you to work out the area enclosed by a polygon. Google Earth Pro does have this feature, but only displays it for the selected polygon, so recording each of the 487 areas we have found so far would be quite tedious. Luckily, we found a helpful site, Zonum Solutions, which was able to take our KML file, and produce a list of areas. We compared the results of one or two of the areas with Google Earth Pro’s answers and found slight discrepancies. For the purposes of this post it doesn’t really matter, but if you use the above website for anything more serious it might be worth investigating which is the most accurate. We then got the country areas and US state areas from Wikipedia.

Interesting facts:

  • Tokyo, Japan, has the largest single area of 3D Imagery.
  • Vatican City has 100% coverage due to it being a very small country contained inside the 3D area around Rome.
  • The US has nearly three quarters of all the worlds 3D imagery.
  • California has the most 3D imagery of any US state.
  • Alaska is the only US state with no 3D imagery.
  • Africa and continental Asia, have no 3D imagery.
  • So far, approximately 0.06% of the Earths land area has 3D imagery.

Notes on the data below:

Some of the recent additions by readers of GEB are not included.
The fact that many of the areas include water, including parts of sea, was ignored. The country and state areas quoted are for land and water bodies within the country.
Areas that cross country borders or state borders, was not dealt with, except for two exceptions:

  • Vatican City was counted, but its area not subtracted from Italy’s area.
  • New Jersey, which shares two large areas with other states which are attributed to those states, was estimated, but not subtracted from those states.
#countryTable td,#stateTable td ,#countryTable th,#stateTable th { text-align: right } #countryTable th,#stateTable th{padding-left:14px;} #countryTable td:first-child ,#countryTable th:first-child,#stateTable td:first-child ,#stateTable th:first-child{ text-align: left;padding-left:0px; } #countryTable,#stateTable {font-size:8pt}

Country 3D Area
(sq km) Country Area
(sq km) %
Covered Argentina 928 2,780,400 0.03% Australia 1,983 7,692,024 0.03% Austria 1,034 83,871 1.23% Belgium 1,068 30,528 3.50% Brazil 1,971 8,515,767 0.02% Bulgaria 652 110,879 0.59% Canada 5,846 9,984,670 0.06% Chile 152 756,102 0.02% Denmark 564 43,094 1.31% Finland 136 338,424 0.04% France 10,976 338,424 3.24% Germany 5,283 357,114 1.48% Greece 118 131,990 0.09% Hungary 1,818 93,028 1.95% Italy 4,351 301,336 1.44% Japan 4,356 377,930 1.15% Luxembourg 108 2,586 4.16% Mexico 3,425 1,964,375 0.17% New Zealand 435 270,467 0.16% Norway 150 323,802 0.05% Portugal 220 92,090 0.24% Romania 719 238,391 0.30% Spain 4,767 505,992 0.94% Sweden 580 450,295 0.13% Switzerland 2,906 41,284 7.04% United Kingdom 2,640 242,900 1.09% United States of America 150,299 9,526,468 1.58% Vatican City 0.4 0.4 100% US State 3D Area
(sq km) State Area
(sq km) %
Covered Alabama 6,068 135,767 4.5% Arizona 2,964 295,234 1.0% Arkansas 2,714 137,732 2.0% California 18,690 423,967 4.4% Colorado 3,674 269,601 1.4% Connecticut 719 14,357 5.0% Delaware 525 6,446 8.1% Florida 4,910 170,312 2.9% Georgia 7,997 153,910 5.2% Hawaii 107 28,313 0.4% Idaho 1,111 216,443 0.5% Illinois 2,456 149,995 1.6% Indiana 5,988 94,326 6.3% Iowa 1,364 145,746 0.9% Kansas 3,972 213,100 1.9% Kentucky 2,514 104,656 2.4% Louisiana 3,327 135,659 2.5% Maine 1,941 91,633 2.1% Maryland 499 32,131 1.6% Massachusetts 565 27,336 2.1% Michigan 5,840 250,487 2.3% Minnesota 1,326 225,163 0.6% Mississippi 979 125,438 0.8% Missouri 2,814 180,540 1.6% Montana 1,318 380,831 0.3% Nebraska 1,015 200,330 0.5% Nevada 770 286,380 0.3% New Hampshire 1,513 24,214 6.2% New Jersey 917 22,591 4.0% New Mexico 1,427 314,917 0.5% New York 3,871 141,297 2.7% North Carolina 6,353 139,391 4.6% North Dakota 1,104 183,108 0.6% Ohio 4,019 116,098 3.5% Oklahoma 429 181,037 0.2% Oregon 3,268 254,799 1.3% Pennsylvania 2,643 119,280 2.2% Rhode Island 1,160 4,001 29.0% South Carolina 4,961 82,933 6.0% South Dakota 772 199,729 0.4% Tennessee 2,909 109,153 2.7% Texas 8,384 695,662 1.2% Utah 3,508 219,882 1.6% Vermont 254 24,906 1.0% Virginia 5,321 110,787 4.8% Washington 4,130 184,661 2.2% West Virginia 1,508 62,756 2.4% Wisconsin 6,184 169,635 3.6% Wyoming 419 253,335 0.2%

The post Fun with KML areas appeared first on Google Earth Blog.

Catégories: Sites Anglophones

Could a conman get false information into Google Maps or Google Earth?

lun 08-09-2014

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.

Catégories: Sites Anglophones

Destiny – Google Street View in a game world

ven 05-09-2014

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.

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Catégories: Sites Anglophones