Wednesday, June 29, 2005

And I'm the three jillionth person to blog about it

According to Mike Wiley, a road geek is "a person who is obsessed with anything associated with transport by a road, street or highway." For me, it's been more of an interest than an obsession, so I suppose I would be called an "amateur" road geek, or just a road enthusiast. What's cool is that in the course of my job, which involves research on street addresses, I have had a lot of fun using Google Maps, which speaks directly to that road enthusiast side of me. Cooler still is the Satellite button on that site, which switches the drawn road maps into actual satellite images of the locations I have searched for.

Well, last night I discovered the just-released Google Earth, which has turned that satellite imagery into a 3D landscape. This searchable application is amazing. Not only can you look directly down upon a location, but you can actually tilt the view to any angle between 0 and 90 degrees. The application uses light and shadows in the images to create a 3D topographical map, allowing you to see hills and mountains as they (sort of) actually look. Also, in most major cities, they've found a way to render taller buildings in 3D.

Now this is where I might ramp up to being a full-on road geek. This app allows you to "fly" from one place to another, simply by typing an address or landmark name into the search window. Going from your house in Portland to, say, the St. Louis arch? Just type it in, and you'll zoom out of Portland, pan across half of the country, then zoom back into the Arch.

I haven't tried this part yet, but you can also put in a start and stop point, and the app will give you driving directions and draw the route on the map (just like Google Maps), and you can fly over the route. There are about three jillion categories of overlays you can add to it, too, from street names to active volcanoes to zip code boundaries to restaurants.

It's cool to have all of this functionality, but the images aren't perfect. For example, the Seattle Space Needle is drawn as just a round column. But that only means that future versions of Google Earth should be in greater detail than this first released version.

The best part is that it's free. Just like my advertising it for them.

2 Talked Back:

At June 30, 2005 at 10:20:00 AM CDT, Blogger stan said...

The 3D bulding imagery is rudimentary, at best. I "flew" over to St. Louis last night, and the arch has been rendered as a big, rectangular monolith. I'll have to get a screen shot tonight and post it.

 

At June 30, 2005 at 8:20:00 PM CDT, Blogger Jim said...

it is a big, rectangular monolith with an arch painted on each side, they filled in the middle after a plane flew through it, we thought everyone knew

 

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