Earth, according to GoogleMikey 1 comment
You can't help but love Google. Aside from having the best (and most relevant) search engine, the dynamic partnership of are also into the habit of mercilessly buying interesting software development companies (think ) and giving away their product - for free.
Enter , formally known as Keyholewhich Google acquired last October and promptly re-branded with the familiar coloured spheres. GE essentially takes to the next level, by wrapping 2 dimensional high resolution satellite maps around a 3 dimensional model of our beloved planet.
Armed with a keen sense of direction and an average set of geography skills anyone will be able to quickly locate anything on the entire planet, from their own house to the pyramids of Cairo. Not content with 2D maps, GE also reveals 3D elevations of mountains, lakes, and buildings.
Buildingsrepresented in Google Earth. ()
But GE is more than a source of amusement and nostalgia. Using the inbuilt layers palette you can easily locate all manner of useful information, such as finding the nearest video library, restaurant, bank, ATM, shopping centre, hospital, night club, bar, coffee house and loads more.
If that was not enough, you can even view crime statistics, which can provide an informed decision for anyone thinking about moving into a certain suburb or state.
I used GE to familiarise myself with the Marri Park golf course before playing 9 holes yesterday. If only it could predict weather patterns. A work colleague left on his European vacation last Friday and was able to locate local amenities and also generally familiarise himself with the roads in relation to where he was to be accommodated.
Left: Ayers Rock, Australia (). Right: Pyramids of Cairo, Egypt ()
Unfortunately some of the satellite maps are low resolution, although not so many to make it an unenjoyable experience. An educated guess would place the blame on older satellite images being implemented into GE, but as all the maps are streamed from the Google servers (the amount of bandwidth they output must be staggering), you can expect them to be updated periodically. One example of this was when the White House in the USA was deliberately pixelated, but recently this has been rectified and you can clearly see said building in all its glory.
Once you locate Mum's house, you can add a placemark (bookmark) which works just like the bookmarks in a web browser. Using themeasure tool you can draw paths between locations to give you the distance, thereby justifying your lack of visits to the old cheese.
Something needs to be mentioned about privacy. A lot of recent media publicity has incorrectly reported that GE allows strangers to violate your privacy. In typical television current affairs fashion, they have missed the mark completely as they do with most Internet related technologies.
The satellite maps range from 2 - 10 years old and lack the necessary detail to make out the model of your car parked in the driveway or to visibly see people. That's right; these maps are not real-time satellite photos and are nowhere near as high resolution as they could have been. It is reasonable to assume Google lowered the resolution to appease a predicted backlash from privacy advocate groups. But this is hardly a violation of privacy for several reasons.
The first reason is because this technology is nothing new. Google just made it popular. For many years satellite maps have been available for purchase (with the right clearance) which actually can zoom right down to see what brand of cola you are drinking.
Secondly, as already mentioned, it is impossible to identify individuals using GE because the satellite imagery resolution is not high enough.
Not a flock of seaguls. As close as you will get to identifying individuals using GE.
Finally and most obvious, if individuals can not be identified then GE is nothing more than a glorified street directory. I can't think of the last time I heard of a privacy advocate complain the UBD is a violation of their privacy.
Politics aside, GE is a great tool for both educational purposes and practical use. Top marks.
- It's free! (Although there is a pro licence with GPS locating)
- Extremely fast and smooth
- You can bookmark locations
- Windows XP or 2000, and broadband only
- Some low quality satellite maps
- USA focused, although this should change eventually