Sunday, February 8, 2009

A great week for mapping services

The last week has been packed with good news to the internet mapping services community.

With Google adding the upgraded ocean floor views just a a few weeks ago, and with the information of a big Google Earth announcement, we had all anticipated the festive launch of Google Ocean on February 2nd. However, Google played the cards right once more and had taken many of us, Google Earth enthusiasts, by surprise, with the new Google Earth 5.

Among the new features presented in the latest version of Google Earth are:
  • Google Ocean - new 3d textures of the ocean floors, ocean surface, and more. Basically an ocean-version of the terrain layer (read more in Google Earth Blog).
  • Google Mars - a new planet to explore via the GE interface. This is not an overlay or an Easter egg, but actually a whole new "product", with high-res imagery, 3d terrain and some cool information layers (read more in Google Earth Blog).
  • Historical Imagery - my favourite new feature, is this new time-line which scrolls through imagery of the same spot at different times, thus bringing back to life old imagery which was overridden with time (read more in Google Earth Blog).
  • Touring - a cool ,easy to use feature, enabling to create fly-to based tours, including narration (read more in Google Earth Blog)!

And if that wasn't enough, to complete this crazy week Microsoft has released tons (37TB, to be exact) of new imagery to Virtual Earth.

A new

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Gaudi's Barcelona in Street View

With the launch of Street View in Spain, and after my vacation there just two weeks ago, it is probably the time for a tour of Gaudi's Barcelona in Street View.

Antonio Gaudi was a Catalan Architect who belonged to the Modernisme movement, the Catalan equivalent for Art-Nouveau. Most of his prominent works are in the Catalan capital of Barcelona, and apart from being the city's main attractions, they are also listed as a UNESCO world heritage site.

A good starting point for our tour is the Palau Guell, a mansion in central Barcelona designed for Eusebi Guell, Gaudi's patron. The mansion today is only partially opened to the public, due to renovation works.

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We continue our path in the central touristic district and after passing the famous Placa de Catalunya, we arrive at the Casa Batllo. This residential building was built in 1877 and later remodeled by Gaudi. For an unknown reason the Google Street View car hasn't passed in the main street by the building, so the nearby junction is as close as we can get.

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We shall continue on the Passeig de Gracia, soon arriving to the Casa Mila. The Casa Mila has also started as a residential building, but was neglected later in the 20th century. The building was purchased by a Catalan bank, restored and opened to the public in the 90's.

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Next on our visit is the Casa Calvet, a building which served partially as a commercial property (in its basement and ground floors) and partially as a residence. It was designed for a textile manufacturer between older buildings, which is considered to be one of the reasons for it being Gaudi's most conventional work.

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Last but not least in our tour is the Sagrada Familia church, Gaudi's most famous and most important work. Construction work on the church began in 1882 and continues to this day, with completion expected in 2026. The church is to have 18 (!) towers upon completion, the tallest measuring 170 meters, making it the tallest church in the world.

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Friday, August 15, 2008

Ynet: Tel Aviv in 3D

Israel's leading portal Ynet, has today published a short article about the option of watching 3D models of Tel Aviv in Google Earth. I'm always surprised of how slow Israeli websites and users relate to Google Earth issues, as I've already wrote about the Tel Aviv 3D models 2 months ago.

Unfortunately the article has not been published in the English version of Ynet (, so here's a translation of the article, which includes an interview with an Israeli architect who's created many of the models in Israel, including of those shown in my previous post about Tel Aviv.

Go on a trip: Tel Aviv in 3D in Google Earth

Metroscape company designs virtual 3D copies in Google Earth, of famous buildings of the Tel Aviv landscape, such as the Opera tower and Kikar Ha-medina (the state square)

Wake up in the morning, feel up your canteen and go on a tour of Tel Aviv, without the soot and the humidity - via Google Earth, Google's 3D simulation software, offered for free download. From a top-down perspective, you can notice Kikar Ha-medina, the Opera tower on the beach, the Tel Aviv city hall and Gan Ha'ir. Google Earth is a sort of a large virtual globe, which enable to focus on any area and watch from up close, to add and to remove layers of information about the visible locations. Now Tel Aviv is also on the map.

The software Google provides includes the maps and the aerial photography, which is purchased from other companies, and the 3D models are designed by users with Google Sketchup. Adar Openheim, architect, designer and founder of relatively new Metroscape (10 months old) which was merged with 3DIG simulation company, is responsible for many of those models.

"It started as a hobby, to model buildings I like in Tel Aviv and upload them to Google Earth, even when there were still no 3D buildings in Israel", Openheim tells. "In other countries around the world, especially in the US, there are whole cities modeled in 3D, but in Israel there's no one in that field".

Google Earth, as Openheim tells, is a more than an entertainment tool for Geography enthusiasts, but an advertising platform with a potential still not utilized in Israel as it is abroad. How is Google Earth used as an advertising platform? "Every building in Google Earth is a sort of a link which can be clicked, like in a browser", he explains. "When the pointer is over a building, it (the building) turns blue and you can click it to see information about the building - for example, an hotel - and to reach the company's website. It workd both ways, and from the company website a link can fly you directly to the hotel in Google Earth".

- Is tourism the ideal field for this kind of publicity?
"Not only. The first company we worked with was a real estate agency, B. yair. We put up models of its projects from Eilat to Netanya. In the company's website there's a link next to each project, and the users can see it in Google Earth".

- How is model design made?
"First thing we do is to take photos of the building from all angles, and we work with the photos. In most cases we don't have the buildings' drawings. I use an aerial photograph to see the external outlines of the building, and I rely on the photos the customer took".

"Around the world there's a serious demand for Google Earth 3D models, because most places have detailed layers and indices of streets and Yellow Pages. We still don't have it in Israel, but I believe it's a matter of time. I personally think it has a great potential, in zones like tourism, marketing and real estate", Openheim claims.

More than a few large companies, says Openheim, are checking the possibility of joining. "The peak was Walk Disney, who modeled the entire Disneyworld in Google Earth. You can tour, buy tickets and watch clips of the rides, all from inside the 3D model".

Monday, July 14, 2008

12.07.08 Imagery update confirmed

The imagery update reported on July 12th has been already discussed quite thoroughly in the Google Earth Blog and GoogleSightSeeing, and was today officially announced in the Google Lat Long blog with the usual quiz regarding the updated places:

1) Founded in 1608, this former British possession has a decidedly French flair.

Qeubec City, Quebec, Canada.

2) Once the seat of great political power, this red fortress is now a major tourist attraction.

The Alhambra fortress, Granada, Spain.

3) Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this city was lost to the world for 1700 years.

Pompei, Italy.

4) Passing by a famous golf course and luxurious mansions, this stretch of road is a tourist attraction in its own right.

This one I still haven't figured out, but I think it could be one of the areas updated in California.

5) Legend has it that Hercules founded this major European city.

Barcelona, Spain.

6) This city within a city plays host to an Opera House, Planetarium, Science Museum, Oceanographic Park, and beautiful gardens.

City of Arts and Science, Valencia, Spain.

7) When we updated imagery of this city, we got complete coverage of another country with it.

Rome, Italy, along with the Vatican.

8) This city hosted General MacArthur's South West Pacific Headquarters during WWII.

Brisbane, Australia.

9) Some of my Googler co-workers can enjoy the views from this very tall building.

Taipei 101 tower, Taipei, Taiwan.

Edit July 15th 22:05 UTC: The official answers had been published today, fitting with the eight answers posted here.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Google Earth imagery update 12.07.08

It seems as though an imagery update just took place in the Google Earth database.

With no official notice of the update so far, I can only report of two areas I have found updated.

The Catalonia imagery seems to be completely updated once again, with photos dated September 2006. Major cities in the area had been updated with other images - Tarragona with imagery from January 2007, and Lleida and Barcelona with imagery from November 2007. Seems like almost half of Andorra also got it's update together with Catalonia, while the other half (including the better part of Andorra la Vella) hasn't been updated at all this time.

Other then Catalonia, it seems that vast areas of Portugal had also been updated, with the new imagery stripes clearly visible all over the country:

Feel free to report in the comment box of any other updated areas.