Results tagged “GIS” from kwc blog

Video demo of ArcGIS Explorer


Pretty cool presentation of ArcGIS Explorer's capabilities. The presenter shows the ability to swipe between topographic and satellite layer presentations of Mount St. Helens. Along the way, embedded 3D Quicktime, photo, and Web markers are pulled up for additional eye candy.

Also: ArcGIS Online, ESRI's official resource for accessing ArcGIS-related resources.

Previously: ArcGIS Explorer now publicly available

via All Points Blog

Google Streetview: a stepping stone


Much was made of the Google's release of the Streetview maps, but I haven't seen any posts that really focus on what I see as the real potential here. Instead, there's been the fun efforts to find 'interesting' StreetViews as well as a cat in a window being elevated to a New York Times article on Google + privacy (note: you can have images removed by clicking on 'Street View Help', 'Report image as inappropriate'). Good and/or fun to discuss, but where is this going?

Following the thread in my previous post:

  • Google buys Keyhole and recoins their product Google Earth
  • Google buys SketchUp and makes it easy to create 3-D buildings for Google Earth
  • Google integrates 3D-like buildings into Google Maps
  • Google licenses technology from Stanford/Stanley for 3D license for creating drive-by 3D models of buildings.
  • Google releases StreetView, aka drive-by photos of buildings

I know its been obvious from the start that photo-textured 3D buildings is where Google is headed, but it sure seems like their getting much, much closer now. How long before the StreetView car gets a SICK laser?

I'll close with my own little StreetView find, something fit for Year Zero.


ArcGIS Explorer now publicly available


Back in high school (circa 1995) I got my mandatory training in ArcView, part of the ESRI professional GIS portfolio at the time. I nerdily enjoyed learning about the software: loading different data layers, calculating groundwater absorption, saving shapefiles, etc... Despite being usable by high school students, ESRI's software wasn't targeted at the consumer: they were about the professional GIS scene and remained there... until Keyhole/Google Earth came along. ESRI was embarrassed by Google, which demonstrated that there was in fact a market for consumer GIS tools. ESRI prepared their countermove, ArcGIS Explorer, while Google continued with its efforts by acquiring SketchUp and releasing StreetView (photo-textured buildings are sure to follow, especially considering the Stanley 3D license).

Well, after long being available as various builds, ArcGIS Explorer is now publicly available. I'm not sure how this is different from before, but it's different and it's probably good. ESRI has more GIS experience than Google, but they are late to the game and don't understand the market as well. They also have one more problem: it's not just about Google Earth, it's about what Google Earth can do for Google Maps.

The 4th Dimension in Google


Just last week at lunch, we were discussing Google Earth and MS's Virtual Earth 3D and how cool it would be once there is enough data to start adding a time slider to it all. Move the slider on Mountain View and you'd get to watch the town collapse all the way down to a stage coach stop. Move the slider over San Francisco and watch the skyline appear and the Golden Gate Bridge come into fruition.

Well, as it turns out, we were discussing a feature that is, in some ways, already there. The new Google Earth 4 comes with a time slider, which works with any timestamp data. It's not the all encompassing time machine, as it is a feature that still awaits massive amounts of data, but people have already put it to work with Hurricane Katrina, London buildings, and more.

There's also another feature they've announced that fits well with all of this: new historical map layers.

This, to me, is a critical tipping point for consumer mapping applications. Before, they could only show us the present. Now, they can show us our past, i.e. give us glimpses into our cultural memory, take a walk down Memory Lane in 3D. Now, we just need data.

Google Earth Blog: Google Earth 4th Dimension Redux

Virtual Earth 3D


I've been playing around with Virtual Earth 3D, and at least when it comes to flying through realistic 3D models of major US metropolitan areas, Microsoft has gone into the lead over Google Earth. You have to install an Internet Explorer plugin, which isn't so bad when you consider that Google Earth is a separate application and didn't have a Mac client for quite awhile. Once you install it, I've enjoyed easily switching between map, satellite, birds-eye, and 3D views.  For some reason I am getting SimCity flashbacks.

There's room for improvement. The zoom controls are very wonky: 3 out of the 7 zoom levels launch you into outer space and it loses track of where you are on the map! Their attempt at incorporating virtual billboards into the models is also fairly crude (see screenshots below) and they are still missing models for some very landmark buildings (e.g. Prudential Center and Fenway Park in Boston). Nevertheless, this delivers one of the best out-of-the-box 3D mapping experiences for this sort of software (i.e. Google Earth), and it seems that Microsoft made very good choices in acquiring Vexcel and Geotango to make this all work.

San Jose: nice model of the new Richard Meier City Hall building, but what's that weird spec over the hills? Why, it's one of Microsoft's floating billboard ads in the middle of nowhere!

San Francisco: When I last checked Google Earth, you couldn't get a good model of the Transamerica without downloading custom models (a pain, really). Virtual Earth 3D includes nice models of the Transamerica and Coit Tower, but I don't seem to recall a large floating orange billboard atop the Transamerica.

Boston: Impressive model of the Christian Science Church Park and Hancock building, but what's a Boston skyline without the Pru (Prudential Center, large flat area just above church)?

More info: * O'Reilly Radar on 'Spaceland' preview * Windows Live Local blog

As a followup to my Craigslist + Google Maps post, Josh sent me a link to urbanrenter, which does with the Craigslist/Maps brainmeld did, with a few bonus extras.

Urbanrenter uses data from Craigslist to display both macro- and micro-level rental details -- you can tell, for example, that living south of 280 is hecka expensive (darker map shading), and if you zoom in there are circles representing individual Craigslist listings. This provides a good resource for figuring out where you can afford to live as well as finding apartments for rent there.

Urbanrenter also features draggable maps like Google Maps, a feature that Peter Norvig noted as one of Google's "differentiating features" at the BayCHI panel two nights ago. The implementation is a little different -- Urbanrenter uses a single, over-sized map image, whereas Google Maps uses multiple map tiles, with some lying off-screen (somewhat akin to old videogame implementations). Google's implementation gets the nod for now (dynamically resizable, smoother loading), but it's good to see that others have this feature.

Overall, I'm also preferring the Craigslist + Google Maps meld to Urbanrenter for the task of finding an apartment. C+GM is easier to use overall -- Urbanrenter requires you to type in a street address or zip code (neither is an easy detail if you don't already live in the area) to get the listings, and the overlays showing the locations of listings is not as easy to read. These seem like small quibbles that could easily be fixed.

SF salt beds


I love it when my flight into the Bay Area takes me over the salt beds in the South Bay -- the color from the air is so brilliant, and each 'tile' of water is so distinct. They're not quite as impressive when viewed from the ground, partly because of the rotten aroma, though it is interesting to see the salt caked up on the retaining walls when you cross the Dumbarton Bridge.

I finally took the time to lookup more information about these salt beds and found out that they were started by Cargill Salt over a century ago, and many are still in active use today. The Cargill Web site has a brief virtual tour that explains some of the process of converting Bay water into the salt product.

In 2003, many of the salt beds were bought by the state/federal government to be turned back into wildlife refuge. The John Cang Photography site has a photo essay that shows the potential future of these salt beds, juxtaposing wildlife in the salt beds with the same wildlife enjoying the Palo Alto Baylands Preserve.

I also grabbed two images, one from Keyhole and the other from Cargill's site that you can compare. The shaded blue represents salt beds that are now under refuge status.


credit A Whole Lotta Nothing for reminding me of the topic (though his WAG may have a couple inaccuracies)

Photo albums with GPS


The World-Wide Media eXchange: WWMX group at Microsoft has released a demo application that lets you create a photo album that interweaves photos, GPS coordinates, and text so that you can view your photos geographically as well as chronologically. Not too useful of an app for today's cameras, but could be a portent of things to come when GPS becomes an inexpensive add-on. Something like this would have been really cool for my Europe backpacking trip.

Example travel log:
Melbourne xmas 2003 (only works on IE due to invalid Windows-only paths)
(via The Scobleizer -- Geek Aggregator)

Tahoe vs. Superior


Bryan and I were having a discussion as to the deepest lakes in the US, in particular the Great Lakes vs. Lake Tahoe. I did some Internet research b/c I thought it was cool to surf through bathymetric images of the lakes and wishing that I still had/knew how to use ArcView. Here's the stuff that I turned up (he was right about Lake Tahoe being deeper than the Great Lakes, though both of us forgot about Crater Lake).

Lake Depth:
- Lake Superior max depth: 1330 ft (405 m)
- Lake Tahoe depth: 1645 ft (501 m)
- Crater Lake (deepest in US): 1932 ft (589 m)
- Russia's Lake Baikal (deepest in World/Russia): 5371 ft (1637 m)

Lake Area:
- Lake Tahoe: 501 km2
- Lake Superior (second largest in world/US): 82,414 km2
- Caspian Sea (largest in world): 371,000 km2

I moved the bathymetry of the two lakes to the extended entry due to size considerations.