According to Tuesday’s CNN article “Google upgrades mapping tools,” Google:

said Monday that four times more land will be covered in the latest version of its free Google Earth software, enabling about one-third of the world’s population to obtain an aerial view of their homes and neighborhood.

The software also is being offered in German, Spanish, French and Italian. The computer coding for the first time will work on Linux operating platforms, a breakthrough likely to broaden the product’s appeal.

This is great news to the open-source Linux community (Miguel!) as well as many non-English speaking users. One of the most exciting aspects of Google Maps is the potential for individuals to create customized interfaces for Google Maps that draw upon existing data already in other locations. Again according to the article:

The online maps already have enabled programmers to create Web sites that draw upon independent databases to graphically illustrate information about everything from local crime statistics to apartments available for rent in specific neighborhoods.

Google estimates about 30,000 of these mapping hybrids, known as “mashups,” have been created in the past year. Despite the licensing plans, Google emphasized it plans to improve its application programming interface to make it easier to create even more mapping mashups.

More info about enhancements to the latest GoogleEarth are available directly from Google. The enhancement for how you find layers and work with them sounds excellent:

We’ve reorganized the data layers to make it easier to find layers and turn them on and off. The nav panel at the bottom of the screen is gone, freeing up more real estate for actual imagery. The nav panel tools are still accessible, though; the nav controllers are now in the upper right and the tools (measure, print, email) are in the new tools bar along the top.

As you may know from my previous geographic-related posts, I’m very interested in learning more about GPS and how it along with Google Maps can be used by students and teachers in the classroom. I find Google Maps’ ability to powerfully display complex phenomena in ways that permit analysis by non-GIS professionals particularly compelling. Marengo GPS Route Planner is a free, web-based tool that enables people to use Google Maps to plan GPS routes than can be downloaded to a portable GPS unit. I suspect we’ll see a proliferation of similar GPS to GoogleEarth applications soon. Google Earth Hacks is one of my favorite sources at present for Google Earth interface downloads and enhancements (when I make time to play with this stuff, which is exactly what you have to do to learn about it!) The GPS enhancements in the latest update of GoogleEarth appear to be just for the commercial, GoogleEarth Plus version, however. That is available for $20, I haven’t tried it yet.

KML files are one format of files that people can download and create themselves to use with Google Earth. Those are the files I’ve worked with the most to date, and discussed at length with others a few months back in a podcast. Placeopedia is one website linking locations to their respective WikiPedia articles via KML files. The Placeopedia links KML file shows the 50 most recently added places/WikiPedia articles.

I learned tonight Google now offers free Google SketchUp software to help people create 3D models, which may or may not be models of real buildings on earth tied to geographic coordinates. This software features include:

Click on a shape and push or pull it to create your desired 3D geometry. Experiment with color and texture directly on your model. Real-time shadow casting lets you see exactly where the sun falls as you model. Select from thousands of pre-drawn components to save time drawing

“Mashups” are welcome here: users don’t have to start from scratch. I love the slogan of Google SketchUp:

Dream. Design. Communicate.

You can download any SketchUp model and then tweak it yourself as desired. SketchUp is currently available for both Windows and Macintosh users, but not Linux. QuickStart video tutorials are available for those wanting to get rolling fast. The Google 3D Warehouse is available to both see and download the 3D building creations of others (which interfaces to GoogleEarth via layers if applicable) and upload your own after you create something. Most popular Google 3D model downloads include The White House, The Eiffel Tower, The Rose Bowl, The Taj Mahal, and more. These are .kmz or .kml files, and many of the Google 3D Warehouse entries also include hyperlinks to the official websites of the modeled locations. It looks like most of the popular downloaded files have been created by Google engineers at this point, but nothing is stopping one of your students (or you) from modeling a building in your own neighborhood or elsewhere that could become one of tomorrow’s most popular downloads! 🙂 I have been able to get .kml files to work on my Mac version of GoogleEarth, but not some of the .kmz files like the Taj Mahal. I am not sure why, upgrading to the beta 4 version did not help.

I could go on, but I think I’ll stop there after noting that again– access to these tools hinges not only on computer hardware but strongly on BANDWIDTH. The announcement of a Linux version of GoogleEarth is great news, and a step in the right direction for open source projects including the $100 laptop. (For SketchUp Macintosh users, the recommended hardware is a 1 GHz G5, whew!) Without a fast connection to the Internet, however, Google Earth is much less fun to use and explore. What’s your community or state doing to bring fiber to the schoolhouse?

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3 Responses to Google Earth updates and 3D modeling

  1. Jim Cottrell says:

    Athletes also use GPS units to “model” their performance on computers.
    Garmin has many small Forerunner GPS units that are great for runners and bikers. I like the inexpesive 201 model.

    Many GPS units interface with a computer and there are many websites that I would consider part of the Web 2.0 that can be used to manipulate this GPS data. The “Motion Based” site ( http://www.motionbased.com/ ) does a great job of getting performance data from GPS data. The Motion Based site also interfaces with Google Earth. The “Topofusion” (http://www.topofusion.com ) program also gets athletic performance form many GPS units. Topofusion also interfaces with Microsofts Terraserver for even more detailed maps. This is great for finding trails.

    These “GPS/Mapping” sites and data allow one to compare two rides to check for improvement or see who is faster. Two rides or runs can even be loaded into these sites for a virtual race.

    One day, my wife found all the place I have mountain bike via the interface with Google Earth on the Motion Based site. She was surprised by all the places I have ridden. I was lucky she didn’t notice the drops in elevation using Google Earth or notice the speeds obtained on my rides. I would have been busted.

    Monitoring athletic performance with GPS units is the way to go.

  2. munna says:

    Many GPS units interface with a computer and there are many websites that I would consider part of the Web 2.0 that can be used to manipulate this GPS data. The ?Motion Based? site ( http://www.motionbased.com/ ) does a great job of getting performance data from GPS data. The Motion Based site also interfaces with Google Earth. The ?Topofusion? (http://www.topofusion.com ) program also gets athletic performance form many GPS units. Topofusion also interfaces with Microsofts Terraserver for even more detailed maps. This is great for finding trails.

    These “GPS/Mapping” sites and data allow one to compare two rides to check for improvement or see who is faster. Two rides or runs can even be loaded into these sites for a virtual race.

    One day, my wife found all the place I have mountain bike via the interface with Google Earth on the Motion Based site. She was surprised by all the places I have ridden. I was lucky she didn?t notice the drops in elevation using Google Earth

  3. Abhiraj Parajuli says:

    in this there are many many things to do n even a single things is to costly

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