Google Earthrise

By Adena Schutzberg

As you expect from Google a very clean search interface graces Google Earth.

This morning Google releases Google Earth, which basically replaces the Keyhole offerings.Many expected the product to be a few more weeks, but here it is, just in time for O'Reilly's Where 2.0 conference to be held Wednesday and Thursday of this week in San Francisco.Coincidence? Google (and partner Telcontar) are silver sponsors of the event.

The news is this: the new Keyhole, aka Google Earth is free, but it still requires a download (10 Mb download, sorry Windows only!).Google Earth Plus costs $20 and adds addition functionality (GPS support, perhaps others).The big solution is $400 year and includes even more tools (drawing, printing...).All three applications access the same worldwide database updated with Landsat coverage, terrain data, 3D buildings for 38 U.S.cities (licensed from an undisclosed source), detailed images for many major cities around the world and more.

The big news is that Google Earth is integrated with Local Search.So, a query on "coffee Somerville, MA" zoomed in from looking at North America on a globe, to a giant round E (for earth is believe) which separated out into array of A-I lettered coffee houses in and around my city.(At least one is closed at this time.) I found that experience sort of creepy.The local imagery, I'm pleased to report, is from "Mass GIS, Commonwealth of Massachusetts EOEA" and it says so in fairly large letters.Layers of data (hotels, dining) can be turned on as can banks, ATMs, schools and many other features.One notable point of local confusion: the category "local rail" includes the MBTA, aka the Subway.To Google's credit, Boston's red line is red and the blue line is blue.Boston is one of the 38 cities with 3D buildings.The buildings are gray and boxy but have the right shapes And, yes you can look at them in 3D and adjust the angle of viewing and all.

Controls sit below the map area and include layers to turn on/off, zoom in out, tools for flying and tools for printing and e-mailing the map.Click for larger image.

The user can save queries and results to MyPlaces, e-mail them, e-mail directions and more.Just like Google Map, Google Earth provides directions turn-by-turn and you can even play back a "video" of the directions and follow the route in the 3D environment.It's 899km from Toronto, Canada to the coffee place down the street.I hit the play button and watched the rather long movie of the road trip.The most fun part? Watching the imagery credit change from DigitalGlobe to New York State GIS to Mass GIS...While this offering serves a different purpose than Geospatial One-Stop 2 (GOS 2), this seamless integration of those datasets is pretty impressive.

Bowdoin Station on the MBTA Blue Line in Boston.The station is visible through the 3D buildings.Click for larger image.

Yes, it's cool.Will I play with it? Certainly.Will I use it for day to day work? I suspect I'll use it to layout potential runs and cycling expeditions.For other things? The jury is still out.I have to admit, flying around this way makes me a bit sea sick...

Still, I think this comment from a poster to a newslist this week raises a good point.He wondered if anyone had seen Google's new product and said of it, "Makes it increasingly tough to impress the non-map savvy types around here with what my GIS can do for them."

Published Wednesday, June 29th, 2005

Written by Adena Schutzberg

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