On of the most asked for features when talking to “professional” users of Google Earth, is the most basic piece of metadata, image acquisition date.
Well, one of the least remarked features in the 4.3 version of Google Earth which was released last week is the ability to at least discover the year the image you are looking at was acquired. This is unfortunately not available everywhere as we don’t have the data for all imagery, but from now on we will be making this available if we have it.
Just click on the little blue circle in the status bar, to see the year of acquisition for the imagery you are looking at..
But understandably much of the attention around this release has been on the improved visualisation capabilities, including the new atmospheric effects, improved 3D modelling and display and embedded street view imagery. Stefan has an excellent post discussing the relative values of these and the behind the scenes changes in this release, Brains & Beauty as he defines them.
Part of the value in the “Beauty” functionality, is the ability to provide the type of information traditional cartography and GIS systems which have automated cartography techniques have largely failed to do – provide a sense of place.
Regular readers will know of my interest in “sense of place” i.e. providing the information that better represents what a place in actually like.
Let me provide an example..
From the map abstract below, can you tell what type of neighbourhood you are looking at..
If you know this city you might recognise the street names, if you are a geographer you might make an assumption about the street pattern, and the type of city which would have a grid based system like this. If we add aerial imagery, perhaps you can now recognise a little more about architecture and building styles, the amount of green spaces, trees etc.
But even with aerial imagery it is still hard to interpret, and to get a feeling what the place would be like to visit.
However if better quality 3D visualisations or even better terrestrial imagery is available, you can actually get a very good sense of what the city is like and even perhaps recognise the city itself.
3D Views of the city provide a great overview of a neighbourhood, while street view images represent the world from a familiar perspective.
The informational value of being able to view buildings, street furniture, parked cars, shop fronts etc., is actually massive because it requires very little interpretation, it is something we are all familiar with and can therefore relate to.
We still have a long way to go of course, as Stefan points out it would be great to know for an individual building, its address, or a shops opening hours, that is clearly something for the future, but lets not under estimate the importance and the emotional impact of seeing the world represented in a way we are all more used to..
Written and submitted from the Executive House Hotel, Victoria, BC , using its free wired network