Latest version of Google Earth, 5.0 is now out. This is a massive ugrade to Google Earth, which takes the application forwards in lots of new ways. For sheer scope and range of new features easily the biggest update yet.
Headline features are Historic satellite images, 3D Ocean terrain, Google Mars!, and powerful new touring capability
Historical Imagery – For me the single most impressive and unexpected addition is the ability to see historic aerial and satellite imagery. Including stuff going back to the 1940s! Previously Google Earth only allowed the display of one image of any place taken at one particular time. Most other new features were predicted in one way or anther – this came out of the blue. Really excited about this. Must be costing Google a packet to acquire all this data.
Ocean – Displays 3d underwater terrain (bathymetry), with a neat wave effect for the ocean surface. Less excited by the possiblities of this than other people seem to be, but admittedly does look cool.
Mars – A complete 3D terrain model. Very impressive. Pretty much every conceivable layer provided – different types of imagery, space probe landing sites etc. The Mars rover tracks look ripe for time animation!
Touring – Provides the ability to record and play back tours. Especially like the fact recorded tours are stored as kml files. Makes it possible to share them, automatically generate them through scripts – e.g. as a black box recording from a flight simulator, and in future (hopefully) play them in the browser plugin.
Some User interface changes:
Time slider has some new features – zoom buttons which change the playback length between a minute, hour, day, week, month, year. Further options to set start and end times
Overview map – new location bottom left of screen, some options to change the size and zoom ratio.
The Ruler displays a compass heading in addition to distance.
Placemarks bounce when the mouse hovers over them.
Couple of niggles – might be due to my PC, internet connection or maybe just the number of people trying to use the application.
The new version took a very, very long time to install.
Imagery is being pulled in very slowly at times
The KML changes are listed in the KML Reference. And a post on the devlopers blog here.
Some very tight control of touring is possible through the new kml extensions. Ability to set the satellite imagery date and sun position time in a lookAt or camera view. Hopefully this new provision for UI control will eventually be extended to things like toggling off individual 3d buildings in the layers.
Here’s a Google Earth time animation showing 3176 Walmart store openings in the USA, from 1962 to 2006. See how the business started out with a single retail location in Arkansas, then spread at an accelerating rate across different regions.
Video showing the animation running in Google Earth:
Once it’s loaded, use the time control slider top of the main Google Earth window to play.
Because this is Google Earth, you can fly around and zoom in and out during the animation.
For anyone thinking this visualization looks vaguely familiar – hands-up, it’s not my idea, the animation is inspired by FlowingData‘s very slick, slippy-map animation of the same data, released last year, here.
To replicate that I’ve used the same KML carpet bombing technique as the flight path animations I knocked together a while back – each time a placemark appears I rapidly cycle through a sequence of Icons of decreasing size, to provide some visual punch.
Note: The location data isn’t all that precise in this – I think it’s just based on zip code area locations, not street addresses. But the stores generally aren’t too far away from the placemarks – look for the massive grey buildings with a zillion cars parked out front.
I’ve added a new page (in the menu on the left) to index my GE browser Plug-in projects, with three more examples to go alongside the flight simulator game and bounce! animation.
Delving into the API…
A basic Polygon Editor. Something I plan to develop further. Use draggable pushpins to rotate, re-size and locate a single, regular polygon or circle anywhere on the globe, then export the result as a KML file. An info panel populates with values for circumference, area, radius and bearing in real time.
And a couple hooking into some of my pre-existing KML files:
Mouseover Flight Route Mapsfor three European low-cost airlines: Easyjet, Ryanair and Wizzair. The information in these is several months out of date so don’t rely on it being accurate.
A view based Hertszprung-Russell Diagram– a scatter plot of stars’ luminosity vs colour – for Sky mode (obviously). Which includes 3000 nearby stars from the Hipparcos catalogue. Built around an unusual KML hack, which I’ll write about another time.
Since the new Google Earth browser plugin was released last week, I’ve been trying hard to resist the temptation to simply throw giant KML files at it 🙂 . Instead focusing on stuff which wouldn’t be practical using regular Google Earth.
Anyway, I’ve cobbled together a simple interactive animation using the API. Similar idea to my earlier (rather lame) bouncing Google Earth 3D model.
OK, it’s not very sophisticated, but the thing to note is this isn’t the Plugin running a KML time animation. Instead, its a fully scripted animation, moving a standard SketchUp model in real time. This means we can do several things which just aren’t possible in Google Earth:
Have options to change every parameter to do with the location and physics (Just location and drop height implemented at the moment).
Include a range of camera settings to view the animation from different frames of reference. Notably a tracking camera, and some from the point of view of the moving 3D model – very cool how well these work.
It’s a pretty flabby/messy piece of scripting at the moment, but if anyone does want re-use any part of the script please feel free.