Google maps and 3D trips
We had a few people from Google to talk about the latest developements and tools, so I thought that I’d just put down a few of the links as a memory aid. I looked at the impressive O3D after the conference and will return to it later, no doubt, but this session was more to do with flights of fancy around Google Earth and the customisation of Google maps.
Stefan Kuhne gave a demo of the Timeline Editor for Google Earth and how it can be used to generate videos of flights around the world. It has come a long way and has options to customize the flight and the view to give styles that fit with the company branding. Rather than just a quick trip between cities, you can now create a whole information video by adding buildings, adding text with banners etc. You can even add sound tracks and a voiceover so that the video becomes a complete presentation. There are features there now to output to a variety of different video formats. The text and keyframe data is embedded within the generated kml file in XML format, so I’m sure people will be putting together apps that will read and write the format as the kml is read from the web site, giving the ability to make these trip files on the fly or to make them for the language of the website visitor. The ability to look at older views of the same city makes quite interesting viewing. Make sure that you sign up for their Sightseer newsletter for all the latest news. See this section for more info on making the videos.
In the 3D world, SketchUp seems to be producing a whole host of people that are prepared to model their city for next to nothing. It’s so easy to put the models up there in Google Earth and some have obviously had a huge amount of time spent on them, Collada seems to be a growing open format now that Google have given it their backing; it’s certainly popular with the Flash contingent where it is used by default with Away3D and Papervision.
Google maps is very easy to use now. It’s just a cut and paste job to put maps in your blog or on your web site. There are also facilities for map makers. Maps of places in the News such as Iran, are being built by thousands of volunteers using Google facilities. It makes maps almost live entertainment. For some inspiration have a look at the MapsMania blog which looks at the latest sites using Google maps. Other great examples from from the Washington Post with their timespace Flash app and the kmlfactbook site showing CIA data. If you need Flash maps, try the uMapper site which helps you make them.
Google are such a huge company now, they are building systems that require support and marketing and so need to get some return for all their efforts. In practice this means that anyone who puts effort into adding content to Google sites in the way of 3D models or street map data, is giving Google a licence to make a profit from it. Although the use of the models and maps is free for normal use, if you start to make any money then Google would like their part, even if only by adding their attribution. It seems a bit strange to Open source advocates that people who add models and streets to their system effectively sign away the rights to their data. We need more facilities like these in the OpenStreetMap and other similar projects. Google makes it so easy though, it’s sometimes hard to complain.