February 26, 2007
Virtual Globes Update
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Welcome to GISWeekly! This week there were three notable announcements surrounding virtual globes: the release of Google Earth’s ability to search and view all KML files, the release of NASA’s World Wind, and an announcement by Intermap Technologies Inc. of an agreement to provide Microsoft Corp. with NEXTMap(R) Britain digital elevation data for use within Microsoft's Virtual Earth platform. Read about them in this week’s Industry News.
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Virtual Globes Update
by Susan Smith
This week there were three notable announcements surrounding virtual globes: the release of Google Earth’s ability to search and view all KML files, the release of NASA’s World Wind, and an announcement by Intermap Technologies Inc. of an agreement to provide Microsoft Corp. with NEXTMap(R) Britain digital elevation data for use within Microsoft's Virtual Earth platform. The agreement enables Microsoft to create and deliver a Live Search Maps product powered by the most current and accurate digital terrain model of Great Britain.
Google Earth Search of KML Files
First, from Google Earth is the newly announced ability to search through all the KML files. The way to try this out is to launch Google Earth, zoom to a location of interest, and type in a search query. The example given in Chikai Ohazama, product manager, for the Google Earth Team’s
was to go to New Zealand, and search for “Lord of the Rings.” You’ll see KML results below the local results in the search panel on the left hand side. If you click on the KML results you’ll be able to read more about the KML file in the pop-up bubble that comes up. Then you can layer that KML file over your Google Earth imagery if you want. The search and view KML files ability will soon be available in Google Maps as well.
There is a Q&A with Google Earth CTO Michael Jones on
in which Jones answers some questions about Google’s place-search technology.
In short, Google Earth has changed the way we search for geospatial data, but being able to search KML files will further define how we search for that data. KML is a published format, customized sets of data that include additional information about specific locations, which may include images, polygons, 3D models, place markers with text descriptions. If KML files are posted on the internet, then they will be indexed by Google’s search engine. Users can search the internet for Google Earth layers that are stored as KML files. If searching specifically for KML files becomes part of the search, the search will encompass the entire web and will find more relevant data than would
previously be available.
NASA’s World Wind
NASA’s World Wind will hopefully gain more notice now that it has been released. World Wind is a virtual globe similar to Google Earth and Microsoft Virtual Earth that allows users to zoom into any location on Earth, from satellite altitude. LandSat imagery and SRTM data are used, with particular focus placed on ease of use. It is designed to run on PC hardware with 3D acceleration.
Features of World Wind include:
Blue Marble – A full copy of Blue Marble true color image of the entire Earth is on World Wind, the same image that is seen on NASA’s Earth Observatory: the Blue Marble. It can be viewed at 1 km per pixel resolution.
LandSat 7 is a seamless mosaic of image data collected between 1999 and 2003 at 15 m per pixel resolution. Color bands such as the infrared spectrum are included. The high resolution of LandSat 7 makes it possible for users to view their own city, neighborhoods and landmarks.
SRTM (Shuttle Radar Topography Mission) Data – Combined with LandSat 7 imagery, SRTM in World Wind allows users to “fly” across the world in any direction, with a view of the Earth at eye level. These views can be exaggerated so users can pick out details.
NASA SVS – A number of animations that display seasonal changes and weather patterns such as hurricanes have been produced by the Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC). These animations can be played directly on the Earth in World Wind.
MODIS (Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer) – MODIS produces time relevant data that is updated every day, which includes data for fires, dust, smoke, floods, storms and volcanic activity. In World Wind, this data can be viewed and is marked directly on the globe. The images can download publication quality material at a resolution of 250 m per pixel.
GLOBE – GLOBE data can be viewed and displayed in World Wind, which includes rainfall, temperature, barometric pressure, cloud cover, and each sample comes with a temperature scale.
Borders – World Wind contains a complete set of borders that traces precisely the borders of each country and state, and also shows where mountains and rivers define boundaries.
Place Names – Place names for cities, towns, countries, capitals, all update dynamically in World Wind’s catalog.
Visual Tools – Visual tools such as latitude and longitude lines, and precise coordinate data can be toggled on and off as needed.
Landmark Set – World Wind can display actual 3D models of landmarks on earth.
Intermap Technologies Agrees to Provide Microsoft with NEXTMap® Britain Digital Elevation Data
Intermap Technologies Corp. announced an agreement to provide Microsoft Corp. with NEXTMap(R) Britain digital elevation data for use within Microsoft's Virtual Earth platform. The agreement makes it possible for Microsoft to create and deliver a Live Search Maps product powered by the most current and accurate digital terrain model of Great Britain.
From the press release: “Intermap's 3D digital terrain model data will serve as the base layer or foundation for the placement and alignment of aerial photography and other geospatial layers. Images are draped over Intermap's three-dimensional foundation to create a unique and accurate user viewing experience.
"The increasing popularity of Internet mapping applications has soared over the past few years, and the quality of data used to deliver unique solutions and an outstanding user experience is what will separate providers in this space," commented Eric DesRoche, senior vice president of strategic business development for Intermap Technologies. "Microsoft is committed to delivering the most accurate and highest quality product on the market and our NEXTMap(R) Britain countrywide elevation dataset will make this a reality."
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