July 03, 2006
New Version of Google Earth & Updates to Google Maps Announced
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Susan Smith - Managing Editor

by Susan Smith - Managing Editor
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Message from the Editor -

Welcome to GISWeekly! Michael Jones, Chief Technology Officer, formerly of Keyhole which is now Google Earth, took time out this week to talk to GISWeekly about the June 12 announcement of the new version of Google Earth, and updates to Google SketchUp and Google Maps. Read about it in this Week's Industry News.

GISWeekly examines select top news each week, picks out worthwhile reading from around the web, and special interest items you might not find elsewhere. This issue will feature Industry News, Top News of the Week, Announcements, Contract Awards, Awards, People, New Products, Letters to the Editor and Upcoming Events.

GISWeekly welcomes letters and feedback from readers, so let us know what you think. Send your comments to me

Best wishes,

Susan Smith, Managing Editor

Industry News

New Version of Google Earth & Updates to Google Maps Announced

by Susan Smith

Michael Jones, Chief Technology Officer, formerly of Keyhole which is now Google Earth, took time out this week to talk to GISWeekly about the June 12 announcement of the new version of Google Earth, and updates to Google SketchUp and Google Maps.

According to the
press release, Google Earth has had more than 100 million unique downloads in the past year and over 30,000 websites have used Google Maps API to create mashups. This announcement represents one year's worth of work. The announcements of the updated database, is shared by Google Earth and Google Maps. Google Earth is a web-browser based product, and Google Maps is a client product.

The Database

The enormously popular products, Google Earth and Maps, are using the same database, i.e., the same road, the same routing, local information, the same satellite imagery. “What you see now in Google Earth is what you also see now in Google Maps,” explained Jones. “It is a greatly more detailed database than previously. It's always been a global database. We always had the whole earth, so it's not more of the earth, it's that more of the earth is now at a higher resolution than before. The sub meter, high resolution imagery, where the pixels themselves are smaller than a meter, and that's about .6 meter comes from our partners, Digital Globe. Also higher resolution aerial
photography comes from many partners around the world. There are three or four aerial photography companies in one country. Our update in this last database solution provides about four times as much 1 meter or better data than we had before. That equates to about 20% of the land mass of the entire earth.”

The coverage of about 20 % of land mass in submeter imagery is centered on big cities About 1/3 of the people of the earth have their home in submeter resolution.

Jones does note that unfortunately 1/3 of the people don't have broadband internet. The belief of Google is that they'll “grow into it” and ultimately understand their neighborhood and the surrounding world much better than before.

Progress is being made, however. Jones said that their research has revealed that all but 5 or 6 countries have high resolution data now. Also, countries that used to be low on the list of activity are now very high on the list of activity because there is now data on their homes. India and China are among these countries.

Google Earth 4 -

Google Earth 4 is the culmination of a year's worth of work, including the satellite imagery update but also
Support for multiple languages - the product is being internationalized and localized to different countries and cultures. So far it is available in French, German, Spanish and Italian, and that process is being extended to other languages and cultures. The Google Local search team gathers all the local information in those countries such as routing directions, local restaurants and taxonomy of restaurants, etc.

In addition it runs on different operating platforms and new ones. The new version runs on Windows PCs, Power PC Macs, Intel based Macs, and on Linux.

Google SketchUp with textured buildings - SketchUp added the ability to draw textured geometry, which was arbitrary in Google Earth. Now users can make models of cities with phototextures of the buildings facades, and download Google Earth and fly around the models.

The pay-for version of SketchUp always did support textures as part of the professional architectural modeling, but now that feature is a part of Google SketchUp.

Google Maps

Google Maps runs on a browser and there is no installation. Besides the shared, updated database, Maps updates include share places placemarks that have representation outside of Google Earth as files called KML (Keyhole Markup Language), based on the XML markup language. “When you click on your house, the picture you see has storytelling information,” Jones explained. “We modified Google Maps so users can read KML files. Google Maps will put a popup balloon at the location and fly you there and show you the pictures. You can even do overlays of graphics.”

There are many more people who would use Google Maps than Google Earth since it does not require as much computer power. This will give GIS departments a new way to publish GIS data such as overlays of the polygons from shapefiles to web browsers via Google Maps.

Support for geocoding - More than 30,000 people have applied to Google to be able to use the Maps API to build their own websites. They want the ability in their applications to accept a text string describing a location, like 123 Main St. Wilton, Conn. and then have it turn into a latitude longitude. “It lets you type in your address and put a dot there, and show the address of a delivery for example,” said Jones. Geocoding is also in Google Maps for France, Italy, Germany and Spain. It also has a simple API and a robust API.

The robust API will parse out the address for you, type in arbitrary address and in the case of the U.S., it will come back with what city, state, zip code, etc., all the information that you might want to fill out an application form or database.

Google Maps for Enterprise - The API license agreement is extremely flexible and free, but is specific as to what you can and can't do, noted Jones. “We're serving the public by helping you to deliver data to the public, but if you want to use it internally in your company on a private internet, with no public facing aspect to it, you can pay us money and then use it the way you want. For that, we have a new Google Maps for Enterprise program.” Jones pointed out that this is not a very visible aspect, but we have already seen companies such as
PlaceBase developing alternatives along these lines in the geospatial space.

Upgrade to the SketchUp Warehouse

SketchUp 3D Warehouse is a worldwide shared repository of 3D models that now supports the upload of textured models.

Not surprisingly, the Google Earth support for arbitrary geometry and textures is not limited to SketchUp. Google picked a new file format that Google Earth supports called Collada that was developed by Sony Corp. to be the file format that could hold models of sufficient richness that it would make PlayStation 3 look good. “It's free open and open sourced, it's specification is owned by a public refereed group called the Chorus group,” Jones said. “We chose to use it because if you can build models from Google Earth, you can build them from 3D Studio Max, from Maya, from Softimage, from Blender, and
pretty soon you will be able to build them from Archicad and Bentley, basically all architectural CAD programs and all the game modeling programs, all the movie animation programs, and should be able to export models in this format that Google Earth reads. We haven't seen a lot of these models yet because it takes some time to sink in. We've seen a lot of models from SketchUp and seen some models from 3D Studio Max.”

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