Yesterday was the first full day of sessions at Where 2.0 2008. Of course, I already blogged the Google keynote by Director of Google Geo John Hanke (I’ve added a video of his presentation to the post). Also, note there are other videos of some of the presentations at Where available at where.blip.tv. I’m not going to have time to write summaries of all the talks from yesterday right now. So, here are a few notable summaries which I found most interesting from a Google Earth perspective.
- Microsoft Virtual Earth – The other important keynote of the day, from a GE perspective, was from the Microsoft Virtual Earth team (for a good summary of the entire talk, see Chris Spagnuolo’s post). Microsoft’s Vincent Tao, formerly the founder of GeoTango, gave an enthusiastic presentation – and revealed not only current progress, but some interesting glimpses at future technology they are working on. I found it interesting that Vincent claimed “VE is the largest mapping project ever in the industry”. Given the amount of money have spent, and the huge volume of data they have generated (3D city models, Bird’s Eye Views, as well as high resolution ortho photos and street maps) – they are certainly generating a lot of bytes of imagery. But, don’t forget Google has StreetView imagery, ortho imagery, street maps, and 3D city models as well. And, Google has many layers of information not found in Virtual Earth (borders, places of interest, Gigapan photos, Panaramio, etc., etc.). Google started the process of “crowd sourced” mapping data which has generated vast amounts of data as well. So, I think it is presumptuous to say Microsoft’s project is bigger. Vincent also demonstrated the impressive Virtual Earth upgrade from last month with a particular emphasis on the new “version 2” 3D cities. Currently there are only four new cities, but I heard from other Microsoft people they plan to add several new v2 cities a month soon. As I’ve said before, the new 3D trees they’ve added look awesome, and the upgraded model textures definitely enhance the look of their cities. Probably the most interesting new demonstration by Vincent was a new upcoming capability they are working on: automatically placed photo overlays. The demo appeared to offer the same 3D placement of photos as Google Earth’s new PhotoOverlay (first introduced last fall). But, the big difference is that Vincent claimed they could automatically place the photo. I suspect this is using the same underlying photogrammetry technology used to generate their 3D models. This could be a huge development since putting photos in Google Earth’s PhotoOverlay manually is a real pain. Now, if only Microsoft will do it in such a way that the photos can be output through KML using the PhotoOverlay parameter – that would be cool! Vincent also briefly demoed a “StreetView” technology they are working on – it was showing “video” of the street views. Another last minute demo Vincent gave was showing the ability to add sunlight time animations in Virtual Earth 3D in some future update. Microsoft is definitely pushing hard to earn the “best” title in virtual world technology. And, they certainly do have some of the best data (BEV, their ortho photos, the size of their 3D city models, and the new 3D trees in their v2 city models). I certainly hope Google is working hard to add new and better models and features or they may lose their lead.
- Poly9 – Poly9 are the creators of FreeEarth – a free browser-based 3D virtual globe which was one of the first to support KML. They have added a number of features to Free Earth – including some not even in Google Earth (like sound). More recently they have announced a new commercial product to help emergency responders called “GeoAlert” (see press release). They claim the system can help save lives. They’ve teamed with another company which can automatically call people when an emergency (like a chemical fire) requires evacuations.
- Fortius One – Sean Gorman – Sean has a good grasp of the development of the GeoWeb. He gave a good summary of progress in that arena and described efforts by his company with their GeoCommons (announced at Where last year) which lets people upload data and get back interesting visualization maps. He said they ran into a bottleneck with their design oncce they reached 1.6 billion uploaded features. They formally announced a new application for GeoCommons called Finder! whose mission is to allow you to “Upload, Organize, and Share your GeoData”.
- Pict Earth and DIYDrones – Pict Earth‘s David Riallant and Jeff Johnson gave a great overview of their aerial photography technologies using primarily unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), and some regular general aviation aircraft. (I’ve written about Pict Earth several times because they have used Google Earth as a platform for visualizing their data). The significance of what they are doing is the real-time geo-location and mapping of the photos, and the experiments they have made with using off-the-shelf technlologies like smart phones to acquire the photos, provide GPS location, and communicate with the ground. They have also worked with Chris Anderson who has been developing technologies to create auto-pilot capabilities to turn basic remote controlled aircrafts into UAVs. Chris gave a very engaging talk also describing the evoloution of their technologies (and some great stories about succeses and failures). Their goal is to create open source software and very low cost solutions that anyone can add to create their own UAVs. See his web site DIYDrones.com.
I’ll try to update this post with other observations from Day 2 later. But, I need to go prepare for today’s sessions. I also want to mention a few things I observed in the booths and at the Where Fair.
More Where 2.0 news: Day 1 summary, Google John Hanke Keynote