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Google Earth Blog
You could also take a virtual romantic vacation by touring Venice in Google Earth, as it has just received new 3D imagery. We do not recommend taking a Gondola ride as Google’s 3D does not handle water very well and the canals are quite bumpy.
Venice, Italy. Be sure to try turning on ‘Historical Imagery’ to compare the new 3D mesh with the older style 3D building models.
While researching this post we were made aware of how many sights in Google Earth are moments in time as well as space.
This marriage proposal in a field that we looked at in 2006 is now part of the suburbs.
We couldn’t even find the Marriage proposal in Street View from this post. It is right outside the GooglePlex and has over 50 different dates of Street View, but as far as we could tell, the one with the marriage proposal in is missing.
The Thematic Mapping Api was released in 2008, less than a month after the release of the Google Earth plugin and Earth Atlas 3D was released soon after. The Thematic Mapping Api was designed to make it much easier to get started with using the Google Earth plugin for displaying statistics. Earth Atlas 3D demonstrates its use, and has some interesting maps, albeit rather out dated. It is clearly a brilliant toolkit, but don’t rush out and build your apps on it, as the Google Earth plugin has been deprecated and is set to stop working in December this year.
So go ahead and try it out. You will need a browser that supports the Google Earth plugin, and you will need to give it permission to run on the site. Also, avoid the ‘latest ice coverage’ map, as the URL to the KML has changed and it causes the Google Earth plugin to crash.
We liked the use of a cell phone model for displaying mobile phone subscriber stats.
Google recently made Google Earth Pro available for free. As a result, we have been having a look at some of the premium features of Google Earth Pro. So far we have looked at the movie maker, Viewshed and map making tools. Today we are looking at how to bulk import addresses into Google Earth Pro.
The bulk address import feature in Google Earth Pro allows you to import a list of addresses from a csv file and it will then geocode the addresses (look up the latitude and longitude) and create appropriate Placemarks in Google Earth Pro.
The relevant Google Earth Pro help page explains the import process. The help page incorrectly states that it only works in seven specified countries. We tried it with an address in Zambia and it geolocated it correctly. This is however dependent on Google Maps having the correct address information so don’t expect it to work flawlessly. You can also import extra columns that are added to the placemarks’ popup window, and can also be used to set various properties such as the name of the placemark, the icon and the altitude. The import mechanism also offers the option to use latitude and longitude in your import data rather than addresses.
We see this feature being quite useful for businesses with customer or supplier databases.
Google Maps turned 10 on Sunday, February 8, 2015. For a brief history of Google Maps, see Google’s Lat Long blog post, which features a nicely done graphical timeline. Its interesting that they include the purchase of Skybox Imaging. We have high hopes for the future of Skybox, but have not yet seen much impact from it on either Google Maps or Google Earth. Google Earth was first released under that name in 2005, but had previously existed as ‘EarthViewer 3D’ under Keyhole Inc. since 2001. The Lat Long blog’s timeline disagrees with Wikipedia about the exact date of the release of Google Earth.
Google Maps’ Earth View.
Over the years Google Earth and Google Maps have shared and exchanged features to the point where Google Maps now has ‘Earth View’, which is heading towards a Google Earth equivalent in a browser. It is however not yet a Google Earth replacement.
The last major addition of Street View imagery to a new location was the addition of Argentina and an expansion of the Malaysian imagery in September last year.
Now Google has added Street View to Bangladesh. Thank you to GEB reader Martin for letting us know about this. The coverage is currently only in two cities, Chittagong and Dhaka. They are, however, Bangladesh’s two largest cities. According to Wikipedia Dhaka has a population of over 12 million people and is the 9th largest city in the world.
Bangladesh Street View coverage.
Some pretty impressive electrical wiring in Dhaka.See it in Street View here.
There have not been many other additions to Street View since September last year. We took a screen shot of the Street View map on September 26th, 2014 and have compared it to a screen shot from February 6th, 2015 and found both additions to Street View and apparently subtractions, too!
Additions to Street View (red areas).
Some Street View appears to have been been removed (red areas), but we suspect it is just variation in how Google displays street view coverage at that zoom level.
Now that Google Earth Pro is fee we are having a look at some of the features it has that are not found in the standard version of Google Earth. We have already looked at the movie maker and Viewshed tools. Today, we are looking at what Google calls the map making tool.
The map making tool in Google Earth Pro is a set of advanced printing options. You can add additional features to your printout, including a title with description, a legend, and a custom HTML box that you can use to add more complex stuff, like your company logo or even a web page. All the elements are optional and can be moved around. The Google logo and copyright notices are also movable, but cannot be removed as they are required to be present by the licence agreement.
You can also print to PDF instead of to a printer. To save the view as an image, click the ‘save image’ button on the tool bar or select File->Save->Save Image from the menu. There are options to save an image much larger than a typical screen, so you can get higher resolution images than is possible via a screen shot.
One of the options is to desaturate the base imagery.
The settings are remembered for the duration of the session. If you want to keep the settings after closing Google Earth Pro, then be sure to save your print settings.
For more on using the map making tools, see this YouTube video from Google:
On Tuesday we had a look at Google Earth Pro’s Movie Maker. Today, we are looking at another Google Earth Pro exclusive feature, the Viewshed tool.
The Viewshed tool shows the line of sight from any given placemark. The Google Earth help page lists some possible uses as:
- Checking the views from a house you plan to build.
- Architects can analyze the views available from a tract of land before designing buildings.
- Real estate agents can evaluate views remotely, and take views into consideration when they set property prices.
- Businesses can make rough estimates of cell tower coverage from a particular location.
- Advertisers can try out different locations for billboards and signs.
We were impressed to discover that it takes into account not only the terrain, but also any 3D models in the scene, including the 3D mesh areas Google has been rolling out, or even models the user has in their ‘my places’.
Using the tool is very simple. Add a placemark where you want the Viewshed to be calculated from, right click on it and select ‘Show Viewshed’. Be patient, as it can take a while before it even lets you know it is calculating, and trying to do other things in Google Earth while it is still calculating the Viewshed may cause it to crash. If your placemark is at ground level, the tool will offer to automatically raise it to a usable height, or allow you to edit the placemarks altitude.
The Viewshed from a tower in Vienna, Austria. You can see the ‘shadows’ cast by tall buildings.
For more, watch this YouTube video created by Google:
Since 2005, Google Earth has been one of the most popular applications on the planet – both literally and figuratively. It was the first, and best, application to enable you to explore our entire planet. Over a billion people have downloaded the application and zoomed in to see if they could see their past or current home, or explore exotic locations they have only dreamed of seeing in their lives. When Google first released it, they only had a small percentage of the Earth in high resolution. Now, virtually every metropolitan area in the world, every notable tourist destination, entire countries in most cases are not only covered in high resolution imagery, but also have higher resolution 3D terrain, and even 3D models for buildings and trees of hundreds of cities. The program even has a built in 3D flight simulator for free.
For the first 8 years after its release, Google continuously added new feature and capabilities to the program including the flight simulator, Google Moon, Google Mars, interactive tours, offline use, and the very useful historical imagery feature. These, and hundreds of other features added, have been documented here on Google Earth Blog, which has been a fan site from the beginning.
About two years ago, new features for the desktop application stopped being released. We expressed concern about this, but were re-assured by Google’s Brian McClendon, who has been the engineering manager behind not only Google Earth’s products, but also Google Maps products as well for a long time. He was also one of the head engineers behind the original development of the Google Earth product. He told us there was new development being done for Google Earth. And, this past October a complete re-write of the underlying Google Earth model was released in the form of a new Google Earth Android App. We expected a new desktop application would be developed soon thereafter – although, we knew it might take several months due to its complexity.
Google Earth 8 for Android sports all new 3D technology built from scratch.
Unfortunately, I recently heard that Brian McClendon is no longer running the Google Maps and Google Earth organization at Google. He has moved to some other project internally. This quietly happened at about the time late last year that there was a major shake-up at Google internally when Sundar Pichai was asked to take on more responsibility by Larry Page – CEO and co-founder of Google. I do not know for sure yet whether the timing was related.
It is not clear what this change means for the future of Google Earth. Recently we discovered Google Earth Pro was suddenly made free (and Google quickly announced this shortly thereafter). In my opinion, this is not a good sign. Google Earth is a wonderful product, but it needs to have as many sources of revenue as possible to justify itself to a publicly traded company like Google. Changes late last year to Google My Maps also weakened the tie between Google Maps and Google Earth.
I know there are millions of people who have found Google Earth invaluable for a multitude of reasons. I personally use it far more than most people, because I’m currently on a 5+ year sailing circumnavigation, and because I have been the publisher of this blog for the past 10 years. But, I’m also aware of the thousands of different things people, businesses, governments, movie makers, and many TV shows have used Google Earth for during this time. And, I know there are millions of people still using the application today.
I sure hope Google wouldn’t yank such a popular and very important product out from under us. But, Google has closed down other very popular products in the past – like Google Reader. The difference here, is that no other product exists that has both the features of Google Earth, and access to Google’s largest database of Earth-based geo-spatial information in the world.
So, I put it to Google, please tell us – your most faithful Google Earth fans – what are your plans for Google Earth. Are we still moving forward?
Now that Google Earth Pro is free it is worth exploring some of the features it has that are not available in the standard version of Google Earth.
Google Earth Pro comes with a built in tool for recording called ‘Movie Maker’ which was first introduced in 2006. It is very easy to use. Just open the Movie Maker dialog box, select the settings you desire, such as video format, resolution and the name of the output file, then hit ‘Create Movie’. You also have the option to either record your live keyboard and mouse navigation or a saved tour.
We did a short test video, and although it is a bit jerky, it was very easy to create and came out better than expected. We also had no difficulty uploading it to YouTube.
A tour of Hoover Dam, Nevada, USA, which has recently received 3D imagery.
If you are wondering how we created the tour above – we used a Space Navigator, which makes flying around Google Earth significantly easier than a keyboard and mouse.
If you want to make high quality movies, then Movie Maker is probably not the best choice. Consider using other screen recording tools, such as fraps, or if you have a Nvidia graphics card, Nvidia’s Geforce Experience comes with free recording software.
Also be sure to note that the Google Earth license agreement does not allow you to use the video footage for uses other than private. There are also strict attribution guidelines from Google and for public use special permission must be obtained from Google. For TV and film a broadcast license needs to be applied for. You can put your video on Youtube but you may not monetize it.
This is the eighth in our series on the Google Earth plugin. Today, we are looking at Gaiagi Driver that we first looked at back in 2008. Six years on and it still works well, although a reasonably fast internet connection is recommended.
Gaiagi Driver should not be seen as a driving simulator, but rather a route planner. You select the route you plan to drive, and it will get the directions and then show you your route on Google Maps, in the Google Earth plugin, in Street View and with Microsoft’s 45 degree imagery from Bing Maps.
So go ahead and try it out. You will need the Google Earth plugin installed, a browser that supports the Google Earth plugin, and for most browsers you must now give permission for the plugin to run on the site.
The University of Phoenix Stadium where Super Bowl XLIX took place yesterday.
[Update: Google have now made an official announcement that Google Earth Pro is free. ]
The biggest Google Earth news this month is that Google Earth Pro is now free. Although there have not as yet been any official announcements from Google, GEB reader ‘AC’ has pointed out that the Google Earth licence support page for languages other than English states that from January 20th, 2015 the licence is free. Although many of the extra features found in Google Earth Pro will only be useful to GIS users, a few features that our readers have expressed interest in using are: the built in movie maker, area and perimeter measurements and the ability to turn off terrain completely.
Google also announced the deprecation of Google Maps Engine, which will be turned off on January 29th, 2016. It is important to note that this is not Google Maps, but another related product that allows you to create your own maps and mapping applications, which is being replaced by alternative solutions available from Google.
Google has continued to roll out 3D imagery, with over 60 new areas or expansions to existing areas being added this month. With lots of hard work by GEB reader Anton Rudolfsson, we updated our map of 3D imagery to include the option to show areas sorted and colour coded according to the date they were first spotted in Google Earth. We are continuing to refine it with suggestions by GEB readers. We also checked the dates that some of the imagery was captured and discovered that Google takes a considerable amount of time to process the 3D imagery prior to releasing it.
Our new colour coded 3D imagery map.
Flying in the monster milk truck, and driving in an A380.
We have in the past shown you how to move Google Earth’s ‘My Places’ from one computer to another. However, if you regularly use Google Earth on more than one computer, it can be useful to sync your ‘My Places’ between the computers. By utilizing a cloud based synchronization service this is now relatively easy to do.
Before trying any of this, remember that modifying the registry incorrectly can cause serious problems that may require you to reinstall Windows. Also, if you have any important placemarks in your ‘My Places’, be sure to back it up first.
The first step is to decide which cloud service to use. We used Microsoft’s One Drive but you can also use others such as Google Drive, Drop Box or iCloud depending on what operating systems your computers have and what your personal preferences are. Ideally, the service you choose should automatically sync a particular folder between your computers.
Instructions for Windows:
Decide which computer has the placemarks you wish to start off with. Google Earth stores your ‘My Places’ as a KML file called ‘myplaces.kml’ typically located in the folder:
Once you have located your ‘myplaces.kml’ file, copy it to a location in your cloud services shared folders and take note of the full path of the folder.
Change the location that Google Earth loads the file from by editing the following registry key and updating it to reflect the new location of the file:
HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Google\Google Earth Plus\KMLPath
or in Google Earth Pro
HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Google\Google Earth Pro\KMLPath
On the other computer, just update the registry key without copying the ‘myplaces.kml’ file. If you wish to combine the two ‘My Places’ then you can open your old ‘myplaces.kml’ from the second computer later on in Google Earth and copy the places into your new ‘My Places’.
Setting the KMLPath in the Windows Registry.
For Mac or Linux?
We do not have a Mac or Linux machine to experiment with, but we did find this thread on Google Groups that suggests using symbolic links. Have any of our readers tried this? If you try this, be careful not to include the Google Earth cache, as that is typically quite large (up to 2Gb) and you don’t want that to be synced.
We found with Microsoft’s One Drive that it was necessary to ensure that the ‘myplaces.kml’ was set to be ‘available offline’ on both computers, but other than that we have not experienced any problems with the set up.
You should avoid using Google Earth at the same time on both computers, and allow time for the file to sync before switching computers. The ‘myplaces.kml’ file is read once when you open Google Earth, and then saved when you exit.
Last week we got an email from GEB reader Alan letting us know that Google Earth Pro, which formerly cost US$400 per year, appears to now be free. There has been no official announcement from Google as yet on the subject.
[Update: Google have now officially announced that Google Earth Pro is free. ]
We signed up for Google Earth Pro, and instead of granting us a 7-day trial licence as was formerly the case, we received an email with a licence key clearly stating that it is a free licence. Also, we formerly had a trial key and requested our account infomation. We received an email with our licence key and a stated expiry date of January 20, 2017. Both the above keys work in Google Earth Pro. In addition, links to licence purchasing and renewal pages now redirect to the Google Earth Pro download page.
Before you rush off to download Google Earth Pro, keep in mind that for the vast majority of users it has no significant features that they need. Be sure to check out the feature comparison list here before downloading it. Google Earth Pro suffers from all the same bugs that are found in Google Earth, as it is based on the same code base, so do not expect it to resolve bug related issues you may be having with Google Earth.
Google Earth Pro includes access to demographics, parcel data and daily traffic counts for the United States.
Google Earth Pro includes area and perimeter measurements of polygons, a feature not available in the standard version of Google Earth.
The Boxing Day tsunami of 2004 occurred before GEB started, when Google Earth was still Keyhole Earth. Instead of just looking at ‘before and after’ pictures showing the devastation, it is now possible to see the recovery since then, with the help of Digital Globe imagery and an Esri map titled Boxing Day 2004 Tsunami: Then and Now. It displays Digital Globe imagery from just after the Tsunami and compares it with recent imagery.
Google Earth has some, but not all of the imagery used in the above map, nevertheless it is worth exploring the locations further using Google Earth’s historical imagery. To help you find the locations in Google Earth, download this KML file.
The aircraft seen in the park was there before the Tsunami.
This story was found via Google Maps Mania.
Last week Google sent an email to users of Google Maps Engine notifying them that support for the Google Maps Engine product will end on January 29th, 2016 at which point the product will be deactivated.
The email states:
As an organization, we want to focus our efforts on delivering rich location content via our APIs, and enabling customers to take advantage of the capabilities provided by our Google Cloud Platform products.”
The move should be seen as Google transitioning customers to already existing alternative products, especially Google My Maps (formerly Maps Engine Lite) which has come of age and now has most of the important features of Google Maps Engine. Google goes on to suggest alternatives:
Google has scoped some alternative solutions for some common GME use cases. Please find the following resources on solutions for some particular use cases below (additional options will be added as they are scoped):
- Create a map using Google My Maps
- Building spatial applications with Google Cloud SQL and Google Maps API
- Serving raster layers on Google Cloud Platform
- Building a store locator with the Google Maps API and Cloud SQL”
Here at GEB we have not used Google Maps Engine extensively and would love to hear from our readers which features are not yet available in alternative products that will be missed.
Earlier this week we had a look at how long it takes Google to process and release 3D imagery. For a few locations, we looked at the dates the imagery was captured as well as the dates that it was first discovered in Google Earth.
Now, GEB reader Anton Rudolfsson, who has been assisting us by delineating newly found 3D areas for our KML map, has also taken the trouble of tracking down the dates for the various 3D releases and categorizing all the areas by release date. So as of today, our KML file includes the option to see the areas either categorized by country or by date discovered.
There are three regions that Anton was unable to track down the dates for: Hollister, El Centro and Truckee, all in California. So if any of our readers know approximately when these were first spotted in Google Earth, please let us know in the comments.
Colour coded regions by date discovered – Europe. White is oldest, Red is newest.
Colour coded regions by date discovered – North America. White is oldest, Red is newest.
Although Google have not updated their ‘Latest Google Earth Imagery Updates’ map since the December 17th update, a number of readers have let us know that there have been quite a few areas updated since then.
GEB reader Sladys has also pointed us to the fact that Genoa, Italy has been updated and the Costa Concordia can be seen in the new imagery. Soon after the Costa Concordia disaster happened we showed you satellite imagery of the wrecked cruise ship and not long after we had a look at a stunning 3D Google Earth tour of the disaster created by Peter Olsen.
It took more than two years for the ship to be salvaged and it was towed to Genoa in July 2014. The current image in Google Earth is from September 2nd, 2014. For pictures of the vessel arriving in Genoa see this article. To see the location in Google Earth, download this KML file.
The Costa Concordia docked in Genoa, Italy waiting to be scrapped.
Other places that have updated satellite imagery include:
From GEB reader Sladys:
New York City and Denmark: the island Als from Sonderborg along with the western part of the island of Fyn and up to Fredericia.
From GEB reader Horváth:
New River Lagoon, Belize
The Western half of Chiquinquira, Colombia
From GEB reader André:
Koh Kong – Cambodia 2014-12-29 Lat 11.615871° Long 102.998715°
Mieu Mon – Vietnam 2014-12-17 Lat 20.828134° Long 105.647598°
Hanoi – Vietnam 2014-12-23 Lat 21.038988° Long 105.890052°
Hai Phong – Vietnam 2014-12-30 Lat 20.804957° Long 106.607445°
Bai Thuong – Vietnam 2014-12-30 Lat 19.902632° Long 105.467691°
Nanjing – China 2014-12-29 Lat 31.971838° Long 118.840109°
Namelala – Mozambique 2014-12-29 Lat -14.473656° Long 40.650851°
East of Makurdi – Nigeria 2014-12-31 Lat 7.689083° Long 8.677589°
Ibadan – Nigeria 2014-12-28 Lat 7.359290° Long 3.973806°
Accra – Ghana 2014-12-29 Lat 5.601988° Long -0.169390°
From GEB reader MapMaker:
Some areas in Ukrane
Since September last year we have been keeping track of 3D imagery released by Google, with the help of our readers who spot the imagery and then let us know in the comments of this post. A big thank you to all the GEB readers that have been contributing.
Google Earth does not show imagery dates for 3D imagery. However, it is usually fairly easy to match up 3D imagery with historical imagery in Google Earth to find out what date it was captured. Sometimes the exact same image can be found in historical imagery, but not always. My usual technique for identifying the date is to find a construction site, as they tend to display large scale visible changes over time, and then find the closest matching image in historical imagery. Sometimes there is an exact match, with vehicles and shadows in the exact same place, sometimes there is no equivalent historical imagery and you can only estimate when the 3D imagery was taken. Also keep in mind that the date Google Earth displays for aerial imagery is not guaranteed to be exact
What we have found, for the locations we have looked at, is that Google often takes a year or more between capturing the imagery and releasing it as 3D. In some locations, Google has clearly put a lot of effort into touching up the 3D manually, especially when it comes to bridges, certain historic buildings, some intricate structures and, we believe, even some aeroplanes. However, some of the recent releases have taken a year or two to release, but have no obvious structures that were given special attention. So, we really don’t know what takes so long to process.
The quickest turnaround we have identified so far was the update to New York that was spotted in Google Earth in December, and the imagery appears to be from June last year. Luguano, Switzerland, which was added just a few days ago, seems to be based on imagery from July 2012. For a few of the locations where we have identified imagery dates you can download this KML file.
As with many of the buildings and bridges around London, the flying buttresses and spires of Westminster Abbey must have been manually edited by Google.
An interesting building in Amsterdam shows signs of manual editing. The 3D imagery was released early this year, but captured some time prior to March 2012.
Prompted by our series showcasing uses of the Google Earth plugin, Gary Grimm of Mountain Visions has shared with us some Google Earth tours that they have created. You can find a complete gallery of their tours here which includes a mixture of tours to download and view in Google Earth, tours to watch using the Google Earth plugin, and tours that have been recorded and can be viewed as an online video.
Although we generally prefer to download tours and view them in Google Earth, using the plugin to display tours can have a number of advantages:
- You can place descriptive information in the web page around it, including links to further content – although most of this can be done within the tour.
To some degree it protects your content from copying.
It is easier for the user as they do not have to download the tour and open Google Earth.
Below are some of the best tours from the Mountain Visions collection presented using the Google Earth plugin. To view them using the plugin, you will need the plugin installed and a compatible browser. It may take some time to load the tours, so be patient and wait for the ‘play’ button to appear in the bottom left hand corner of the plugin.
Prince of Wales Island Watershed Restoration Projects, 2006-2011
(or download the KMZ to view it in Google Earth.)
A screenshot from the CuMo mine tour.
This is the seventh in our series showcasing the Google Earth plugin.
Today we are looking at probably the best known app built with the Google Earth plugin: The Monster Milktruck. It was developed in 2008 by Google to showcase the use of the Google Earth plugin. It even has its own Wikipedia page. We looked at it when it first came out. The original version published by Google is broken, because it uses a model from the Sketchup 3D Warehouse, which has since been sold by Google and the URLs have changed. However, we have fixed that bug and resurrected it for your enjoyment. If you have the Google Earth plugin installed and a browser that supports it, you should see the Monster Milktruck game below and be able to play.
MONSTER MILKTRUCK! To drive: use the buttons, or keyboard arrows (with focus on page).