Google Earth Users Talk, Google Listens

One of the things I like best about the Google team developing Google Earth and Maps, is that they really listen to their users. Over the past few months, Google has been making many changes to their imagery processing for Google Earth. The goals seem to be to make imagery more consistent in appearance, improve coloration so the view of the globe looks less “mottled” (with strips of different photos), and to improve the interface between the 3D ocean bathymetry and the coastlines. According to GEB readers, and yours truly, some of the changes haven’t been for the best.
For example, when GE 5 first came out, the interface between the coastlines and the new bathymetry actually covered over data for some islands and parts of coastlines. Google recognized the problems, but it took quite some before the changes were fixed. Several months. Then in June, Google introduced new coloration for the US. GEB was pretty vocal about complaining on this one – and a month later Google fixed it for some areas (but, not all). Unfortunately, they also added a new “coastline cutting” algorithm to cut the shape of the aerial imagery to the shape of the coastline. Many GE users complained about this one. Although it does look “cleaner” when viewing from higher altitudes, the change resulted in a loss of valuable data of offshore imagery (showing ships at sea, air traffic, anchorages, and more). Some of us told Google they should at a minimum not introduce the coastline cutting to the “Historical Imagery” archives. Again, Google has been listening: the recent imagery update removed the coastline cutting from most of the historical imagery!
The processes Google uses for making changes to the imagery, processing them for the servers, verifying the quality, and then delivering them to their live servers has taken at least 60 days normally. However, there are signs Google is improving the update speed.
Last week, an imagery update was pushed out (and found by GEB readers). Several places were found to have sub-standard imagery – clouds in the satellite photos, and dark and poor contrasted images. Now, only a few days later, several people have reported some of those images have been fixed. That’s a much faster turn around!
On behalf of GEB readers, and other GE users, I would like to thank Google for listening. And, hopefully with their improved processes, we won’t have to wait so long for future changes to materialize.

About Frank Taylor

Frank Taylor started the Google Earth Blog in July, 2005 shortly after Google Earth was released. He worked in 3D graphics for many years and was very impressed with this exciting product. Frank left in 2009 to circumnavigate the earth by sailboat as part of the Tahina Expedition.



Comments

  1. Speaking of errors in imagery, what’s this weird thing over Lake Baikal?
    http://maps.google.com/?ie=UTF8&t=h&ll=53.866903,109.04686&spn=0.740941,2.113495&z=10

  2. Brazillian says:

    It seems that Google put back the old imagery as default. At least in my city (Fortaleza,Brazil), some images from 2007 are more uptodate than the ones used as non-historical, which are from 2006.

  3. Frank Taylor says:

    @Anders: that’s a “patterned swath” image processing error which is already registered in the Image Data Error Compendium – see it here: http://www.gearthblog.com/blog/archives/2007/01/google_earth_data_er.html

  4. Hi,
    A few days ago (on 27/08/2009) I have tried to remove my two pictures from Google Earth. Firstly I have removed these from my folder in Panoramio website http://www.panoramio.com/user/2459077
    But they are still on the map ( see http://maps.google.co.uk/maps?hl=en&tab=wl&q=Kiemionys%20)
    If you click on the photo – I get the msg: This photo does not exist anymore (http://www.panoramio.com/photo/16620661)
    Could you please forward this enquiry to responsible people at Google Earth Team who could remove these two pictures?
    Many thanks in advance for your help.
    Ged

  5. GE image quality certainly has improved, as a glance at the history layer will show. But frequent suggestions to improve the layers interface have not yet resulted in major changes. The present interface is cramped, fiddly, and not intuitive. There should be an optional full screen version with links to more information (metadata) on each layer.
    Regular colourisation seems to be rather hit and miss, with over coloured and darkened images in places, and for example seems not to have been achieved in the reported recent updates in Germany. But I for one am quite happy to see the patchwork which indicates from a distance likely variation in image quality.

  6. Frank Taylor says:

    Chris, you make a good point about the layers. My exuberance over more rapid fixes to the imagery perhaps was carried too far. The problems with the Google Earth layers interface is is my biggest remaining issue. It will require a significant upgrade to GE to alter that aspect of the application. It’s something I hoped would happen when 5.0 came out. Maybe when 6.0 is released in a year or so (hint hint, are you listening Google)…?

  7. Well… while the U.S. Capitol, White House, and Naval Observatory are no longer “re-pixelated”, it looks like Google may have just reverted to the previous images (the ghostly remains of the O’Neill House Office Building have returned.)
    The pixelated images posted last week looked like they may have actually been newer. It’s a trade-off, but it would be nice to see the CVC and Botanic Garden expansion completed.

  8. Adil Ashraf says:

    If they are really listening, then I would like them to update Karachi, Pakistan aerial images. They are very much outdated (2006 & 2007), and the 2007 images are darker due the images being taken right after it rained.
    Its very difficult to build maps for Karachi via Google MapMaker when the images are so old that they completely miss all the overpasses and roads that were built last year and are still being built. Google; You have a lot of users from Pakistan, please look out for our interests as well.
    Thanks

  9. Frank – perhaps I underestimate the development effort required for a new layers interface, but it must be in Google’s business interests to improve access to profitable layers, Nevertheless GE provides me with far more fantastic information and interest than any other source on the Web
    Just looking at the newly released September updates KML, changes in colourisation seem to have upped the ratio of ‘false’ reports of new imagery from GEB readers this month… unless the file is incomplete.

  10. Systemic improvements are deserving of praise, however while frequently innovative suggestions originating from this blog rightly result in changes being implemented by Google in a short timeframe, unfortunately equally legitimate and substantiated points reported to Google by private users through the GE error reporting webpage do not seem to receive the attention they deserve.
    Over the last couple of years I have reported a number of oversights/errors to Google regarding Ireland through the appropriate GE feedback webpage. Each was complete with detailed links as to how Google could verify the veracity of the alleged errors. This was followed by hyperlinks to State data where the necessary correction could quickly be identified. For instance Ordnance Survey Ireland have detailed 1:50000 mapping of the whole of Ireland, whole nation orthograpghy from 2000 and 2005 on their website which is available through a free web viewer. The universal availablity of this data to view at no cost makes it hard to understand why Google have not corrected many of the errors reported, some going back over two years. Example: County Meath, Ireland has been delineated incorrectly (to a very significant extent) for a couple of years now despite I raising it with Google and on this Blog a number of times. The motorway network is also in need of updating. The Dublin administrative areas also need to be shown. Nevertheless they are doing a great job in general.

  11. Is there anyway to have Google Earth high resolution data reduced to low res? Our plant construction site provides too much detail which can be used by our competitors. If so who can I send the request to?

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