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Google Earth Blog
Google has released some Street View imagery in Greenland. Thank you to GEB reader Chris for bringing this to our attention. There is also significant expansion to the coverage of Bangladesh that we looked at earlier this month.
The new Greenland imagery includes sections captured by boat
This is the Greenland Street View car.
A map of additions to Street View since we last looked
We recently came across this interesting article. It appears that the Dubai Municipality plans to create a 3D map of the whole emirate. It is intended primarily for government use, but it will also be made available to the general public. It will be captured using octocopter drones.
Dubai apparently has not allowed Google to take aerial photos of the city, let alone map it in 3D. We don’t know the reason for this, but it could be a desire to censor certain locations, as will be done in the Dubai 3D project. However, Google has censored 3D imagery in Greece, either by making the 3D imagery very blocky, as in the case of Cephalonia International Airport, or simply leaving out the location, as is the case with Mykonos Island National Airport. So is this likely to happen in other major cities around the world, where Google or other mapping companies are prevented from capturing imagery?
View from the 154th floor of the Burj Dubai as seen in Street View.
FlightRadar24 uses a number of different data sources to track aircraft. One of the main sources, ADS-B, requires special equipment on board the aircraft as well as detectors on the ground. Only about 65% of commercial passenger aircraft have the necessary equipment, so do not expect to see all air traffic on the map. To learn more about how it works, see their ‘How it works’ page.
The main interface uses Google Maps. To see the Google Earth plugin in action, select an aircraft, then click the ‘3D’ button on the left hand side of the screen below the picture of the aircraft. The ‘3D’ button opens ‘Cockpit View’, which uses the Google Earth plugin to show the view from the aircraft. It includes a basic instrument panel and will also display the locations of any other aircraft in the vicinity. It can also show a model aircraft, although it is a generic gray model that does not correspond to the specific aircraft you are tracking.
Coming in to land, Vancouver, Canada.
Most of the time, aircraft will be flying too high to see much of Google Earth’s 3D imagery. Even if you pick an aircraft that is landing, you may find it is flying too fast to load all the 3D imagery before you have gone past. We also discovered that the positioning is not always accurate, as the aircraft we tracked missed the runway by over a hundred metres.
You will need to have the Google Earth plugin installed, a browser that supports it, and in most cases, you will have to allow the plugin to run on the flightradar24.com site.
Several times we experienced glitches with the graphics, we think because the view is constantly moving and the Google Earth plugin can’t keep up. Reloading the page usually fixed it, however.
The Monster Milktruck is a demo of a driving simulator using the Google Earth plugin. It was created by Google in 2008 as part of the Google Earth API sample code to help developers get started with creating applications for the Google Earth plugin.
We recently had a look at it as part of our Google Earth plugin showcase and we pointed out that the original version is broken due to a change in the URL to the Sketchup Warehouse model it uses. However, we were able to fix the bugs and you can try it out here.
You can try it out here.
Exploring San Francisco in the Monster Milktruck Cesium edition.
We found the performance to be quite impressive. It has global satellite imagery and terrain data based on Bing maps. It does lack the 3D mesh that we are used to seeing in Google Earth, but even Google Earth is far from achieving global 3D coverage. We did encounter a bug when teleporting to New York. It placed our milk truck under the surface of the globe and we could not get out without teleporting somewhere else. But we believe that is a bug in the Monster Milktruck code and not a problem with Cesium itself. Cesium uses WebGl and we found that it did not work on a 6 year old laptop. This could possibly be resolved by updating the graphics card drivers, but keep in mind that Cesium may not work with older hardware.
A couple of weeks ago Frank wrote about changes in Google’s Google Maps and Google Earth organization. Since then, we have also noted that Google is working with Esri, to assist Google Earth Enterprise and Google Maps Engine customers to transition to Esri products. So what does all this mean? Google is generally close-lipped about its future plans, so we can only speculate based on its recent public actions.
It would appear that Google may be considering getting out of the high end Geographic Information System (GIS) business. Google Earth Enterprise is a product that allows customers to have their own Google Earth servers and host their own imagery and layers etc on their own servers. It appears from the Esri website that Google is encouraging its customers to move to other software products. Google Earth Pro, an intermediate product in the GIS space was also recently made available for free. In the 2D Maps space, Google recently deprecated Google Maps Engine which amongst other uses, can be thought of as Google’s enterprise level Maps product.
The latest version of Google Earth on Android, uses a completely new graphics model. It also appears to share the street database with Google Maps. In addition, Google Earth for Android does not show the old type of user created 3D models. It only displays the newer automatically generated 3D mesh. Because of the new graphics model, and presumably new street data model, it is likely that the supporting servers have changed as well. This means the Android version is incompatible with the older Google Earth servers, which explains why the Android version no longer includes the option to log into a Google Earth Enterprise servers.
We are hoping that Google will release a new version of Google Earth for the desktop similar to the Android version but with beefed up features. But if this happens it would likely be incompatible with Google Earth Enterprise databases. This would leave Google with the choice of upgrading Google Earth Enterprise too, or keeping the products separate. It appears from recent moves that Google may decide to drop Google Earth Enterprise, although Google usually have a fairly long deprecation policy so they won’t just leave Enterprise customers in the lurch.
Google shows no sign of slowing down when it comes to gathering satellite imagery and releasing 3D imagery with nearly 100 additions to the 3D imagery already in 2015. So Google clearly still sees a future for an earth in 3D.
A map of locations that have received 3D imagery so far this year. To find them in Google Earth, use our KML file
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.