I fucking love Google Earth. What better way to waste an entire study day that flying over the Himalayas or walking the virtual streets of New York and popping into ground zero? Fantastic – this is how the Internet should be!
For the uninitiated, Google Earth is the mother of all mash-ups, where satellite images from every conceivable source are brought together to give you, essentially, the entire world. You can zoom down to any point, at any resolution, find any street, any town, and even see individual cars and sometimes people.
On top of this basic structure they have poured layer upon layer of extra data – whether it be sites of earthquakes or people’s own photographs of places in the world you have never heard of.
And now the most amazing function is taking off – the 3d buildings. People anywhere can made 3d models of buildings (using, among other things, Google’s own 3d program Sketchup) and place them in the correct place in the 3d world. So when you go and look at Stockholm, for example, you can turn on the buildings and go for a “walk” around the royal palace or houses of parliament and whatever else people have been bothered to make.
Today I was looking at Dublin, and discovered that a lot of details have been added. Here is an image showing looking north over O’Connell bridge, showing the Spike and a whole bunch of buildings.
Believe me, in the future, when they have modelled the whole planet, they will incorporate a multi-user interface and turn Google Earth into an enormous 3d environment – a virtual world that looks precisely like the real one. So remember where you heard it first..!
Google Earth is free and easy, so what the hell are you waiting for?