Researchers at the University of Southern California (USC) have spun off a company called Sentinel AVE which has developed some jaw-dropping technology (see below) suitable for future application to Google Earth. They have married video into their own virtual globe which they call Augmented Virtual Earth (no relation to Microsoft’s product). Since Google Earth first came out, video has been a much wanted visualization add-on (see some early user-generated experiments). We’ve hoped for 3D videos in the Google Earth scene (like what you often see in Second Life). But, Google’s rendering engine has not yet allowed it. When time animation was added to Google Earth version 4, one enterprising 3D modeler created a pseudo video capability by time animating frames of video into GE. Then, with GE 4.2, Google added the ability to add flash embeds into placemark descriptions, which allowed us to embed videos inside the placemarks. A step forward, but still not true video in the 3D world.
AVE goes a huge step further with video in a virtual globe. First, they’ve developed a capability to simultaneously play back multiple videos in a dynamic 3D world scene. And, even better, they can map videos into the 3D space so they give a true 3D feel to the video. A perfect application for security surveillance (which appears to be an area their business if focused on). Check out this short video clip (higher resolution videos available at their site):
Now, imagine that kind of video capability in Google Earth. This is another one of those technologies that could be used for some really cool visualizations, and could also raise concerns because of the possible applications which could compromise privacy. But, with every good technology, there are always the possibility of negative uses. Still, I can envision all kinds of positive uses to help add realism and enhanced experiences to the visualizations in Google Earth. Things like traffic web cams, weather checking, live events, sports, games, etc. could find application with this type of technology.