Google Earth Blog http://www.gearthblog.com The amazing things about Google Earth Mon, 23 Jan 2017 22:03:21 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.7.1 50387158 Google Earth Easter Egg http://www.gearthblog.com/blog/archives/2017/01/google-earth-easter-egg.html http://www.gearthblog.com/blog/archives/2017/01/google-earth-easter-egg.html#comments Mon, 23 Jan 2017 10:49:02 +0000 http://www.gearthblog.com/?p=20179 The latest version of Google Earth that was released last week contains a nice Easter Egg hidden in the ‘about’ window. To see this easter egg, open the ‘about’ window and right click the Google Earth logo rapidly about five times. Maybe Google can consider making it context sensitive so you see a different one […]

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The latest version of Google Earth that was released last week contains a nice Easter Egg hidden in the ‘about’ window.

To see this easter egg, open the ‘about’ window and right click the Google Earth logo rapidly about five times.

Maybe Google can consider making it context sensitive so you see a different one depending on what part of the earth you are viewing?

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New Google Earth Version 7.1.8.3036 http://www.gearthblog.com/blog/archives/2017/01/new-google-earth-version-7-1-8-3036.html http://www.gearthblog.com/blog/archives/2017/01/new-google-earth-version-7-1-8-3036.html#comments Fri, 20 Jan 2017 10:18:17 +0000 http://www.gearthblog.com/?p=20167 Thank you to GEB reader André for letting us know that Google has just updated Google Earth to version 7.1.8.3036. It is a minor bugfix update but does indicate Google’s continued dedication to Google Earth. The main thing you will notice is a slightly more modern look to the menus and other interface features. The […]

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Thank you to GEB reader André for letting us know that Google has just updated Google Earth to version 7.1.8.3036. It is a minor bugfix update but does indicate Google’s continued dedication to Google Earth.

The main thing you will notice is a slightly more modern look to the menus and other interface features. The placemark list, for example now has ‘twisties’ instead of plus/minus symbols.

One of the notable bug fixes is the Feedback option in Windows (found under Help->Send Feedback). Hopefully this means they are going to be more active in listening to suggestions and bug reports.

An interesting addition is a couple of buttons to make it easier to add images to placemarks:

Official release notes

What’s New In Google Earth 7.1.8.3036 (from the release announcement).

Bugs Fixed

  • Various security issues
  • Some files missing from saved KMZs
  • Crash in View in Maps if user logged in
  • License-related problems with Earth Pro
  • Incorrectly-localized user interface elements
  • Settings/Preferences dialog unexpected behavior
  • Windows: View in Maps frozen
  • Windows: Feedback tool broken
  • Windows: program hangs when saving search results
  • Windows: installer doesn’t clean up files
  • Mac: crash running on OS X 10.6
  • Mac: installer conflicts between different Earth variants
  • Linux (Debian): search crash
  • Linux: installer not installing needed libraries
  • Linux: spurious network warning messages
  • Linux: crash viewing Moon landmarks

Changes

  • Image picker for placemark editing
  • Remove Earth Pro “upsell” links
  • Browser Plugin (bundled and standalone) discontinued
  • High-detail terrain enabled by default
  • Windows: Qt application library upgraded
  • Linux: Earth Pro now available
  • Linux: installers now signed

Known Issues

  • Tour guide, overlays sometimes overlap Startup Tips, About dialogs
  • Windows (7): Installer drawing issues
  • Linux: Earth Pro: Movie Maker, some GPS features not available
  • Linux: Earth Pro: Import dialogs sometimes slow/laggy

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Google Earth placemarks to Excel http://www.gearthblog.com/blog/archives/2017/01/google-earth-placemarks-excel.html http://www.gearthblog.com/blog/archives/2017/01/google-earth-placemarks-excel.html#comments Thu, 19 Jan 2017 12:04:27 +0000 http://www.gearthblog.com/?p=20158 It is often useful to be able to get Google Earth placemarks into Excel (or other spreadsheet application or even a database). One way to do this is to save your placemarks as a .KML file (do not use .KMZ) then rename the file to .XML. Then it will open in Excel. However, it will […]

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It is often useful to be able to get Google Earth placemarks into Excel (or other spreadsheet application or even a database). One way to do this is to save your placemarks as a .KML file (do not use .KMZ) then rename the file to .XML. Then it will open in Excel. However, it will typically need quite a lot of cleaning up after that. So, we thought it might be useful to have a simple converter that takes a .KML or .KMZ and extracts all the placemarks (points only, ignoring polygons, paths and other features) and converts it to csv for easy import into Excel or other application. So, here it is:

 

It only extracts the placemark name, description, latitude and longitude.

If you need other fields, or features, or encounter any bugs, please let us know in the comments.

To convert the other way (Excel to Google Earth), the easiest method is to use Google Earth Pro’s import feature described here. Another more complicated technique can be found here.

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Draco 3D compression library http://www.gearthblog.com/blog/archives/2017/01/draco-3d-compression-library.html http://www.gearthblog.com/blog/archives/2017/01/draco-3d-compression-library.html#comments Wed, 18 Jan 2017 11:53:20 +0000 http://www.gearthblog.com/?p=20151 Google recently open sourced a new 3D compression library called Draco. The new library promises high compression rates for 3D graphics and promises much faster page loads for web pages with 3D graphics. It was apparently the Chrome Media team that developed the library, but we are wondering whether or not the Google Maps and […]

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Google recently open sourced a new 3D compression library called Draco. The new library promises high compression rates for 3D graphics and promises much faster page loads for web pages with 3D graphics.

It was apparently the Chrome Media team that developed the library, but we are wondering whether or not the Google Maps and Google Earth teams have taken note. Both Google Earth and Google Maps in ‘Earth’ mode would benefit significantly from better compression. We do not know what compression methodologies they currently use, or how they compare to this new library.

Google Earth benefits from having a cache, but as we found out when investigating how much data 3D imagery requires, the cache is actually quite small relative to the amount of 3D data available and unless your internet connection is blazingly fast, you will spend most of your time in Google Earth waiting for imagery to download and this is especially true for areas with 3D imagery. Better compression would not just speed up downloads, but also effectively boost the size of the cache – assuming the imagery is stored in the cache in compressed format.

Do any of our readers know what compression Google Earth and Google Maps currently use for 3D imagery?

The compression format for KML files is the standard ZIP format (when saved as KMZ).

2D imagery
Google Earth image overlays support .jpg and .png. When it comes to standard 2D satellite and aerial imagery, we do not know what it uses internally or what format is used to transfer imagery from the servers, but given that the Google Earth client has not seen any major version updates for years, our guess is that it is using rather out-dated compression. Google has put a lot of effort into 2D image compression formats, such as WebP, and Google Earth would probably benefit from those too.

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Using artificial intelligence on satellite imagery http://www.gearthblog.com/blog/archives/2017/01/using-artificial-inteligence-satellite-imagery.html http://www.gearthblog.com/blog/archives/2017/01/using-artificial-inteligence-satellite-imagery.html#respond Tue, 17 Jan 2017 13:03:21 +0000 http://www.gearthblog.com/?p=20144 We recently came across this interesting article which talks about how DigitalGlobe is applying AI to satellite imagery recognition. Humans brains are still extremely useful, so DigitalGlobe also has a crowd-sourcing platform that can be used either on its own, or to train an artificial intelligence algorithm. If you are interested in AI and satellite […]

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We recently came across this interesting article which talks about how DigitalGlobe is applying AI to satellite imagery recognition.

Humans brains are still extremely useful, so DigitalGlobe also has a crowd-sourcing platform that can be used either on its own, or to train an artificial intelligence algorithm.

If you are interested in AI and satellite imagery then read the DigitalGlobe developer blog, which has a number of interesting articles, such as:

Detecting and measuring coastal change
Finding pools
Monitoring changes along pipeline routes
Detecting population centers in Nigeria


Detecting population centers in Nigeria. [Image: DigitalGlobe]

You can also sign up for a free evaluation account on DigitalGlobe’s AI platform GBDX.

Incidentally, we also found this comment in the article mentioned in the first paragraph above to be interesting:

DigitalGlobe also doesn’t release images of active U.S. combat areas.”

This at least partially explains the censorship (lack of imagery updates) of certain countries in Google Earth. It is not clear whether this is a decision made unilaterally by DigitalGlobe.

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Wish list for Google Earth for 2017 http://www.gearthblog.com/blog/archives/2017/01/wish-list-google-earth-2017.html http://www.gearthblog.com/blog/archives/2017/01/wish-list-google-earth-2017.html#comments Mon, 16 Jan 2017 11:09:33 +0000 http://www.gearthblog.com/?p=20130 Here is our wish list for 2017: Google has been making bug-fix updates to Google Earth, which have been very welcome (the crash that used to happen when moving placemarks was very frustrating), but there have been no new features added. We would love to see new features, or even a major update. Google has […]

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Here is our wish list for 2017:

  • Google has been making bug-fix updates to Google Earth, which have been very welcome (the crash that used to happen when moving placemarks was very frustrating), but there have been no new features added. We would love to see new features, or even a major update.

  • Google has recently shut down the Google Earth plugin / API. The main reason given for discontinuing it was that it relied on old technology called NPAPI that is considered insecure by browser makers and is being removed from browsers or made harder to use. We would love to see Google provide some alternative ways to control Google Earth via code and query Google Earth’s datasets. It could even provide information that could not be easily obtained with the old API such as imagery providers, or the boundary of a given image.

  • Given that the Google Earth plugin / API is now shut down, we will be unable to create imagery update maps. A few years ago Google would release update maps on a fairly regular basis. Over the last few years, however, it has only provided teasers in the Voyager layers, usually covering only a tiny fraction of all the updates that have taken place. It would be fantastic if Google was to resume publishing imagery update maps.

  • The yearly global mosaics of Landsat/Sentinel-2 imagery that were recently added to historical imagery are a welcome addition, but also come with some disadvantages. They make it much harder to explore historical imagery and in some places Google has got the settings wrong. We would like to see the altitude at which they fade out raised slightly and even better, the option to turn them off.

  • An interesting additional setting for the ‘historical imagery’ feature would be to allow the selection of a date range rather than the current maximum date. That way you could easily find all imagery within a given date range (especially if the Landsat / Sentinel-2 layers could be turned off).

  • The global mosaics are created by merging multiple images at any given location and as a result lose some resolution and do not show seasonal changes and events. It would be fantastic if Google could find a way to allow us to view the raw Landsat and Sentinel-2 imagery in Google Earth. The ideal would be to have a special layer where you could view them. Currently, although the imagery can be obtained relatively easily, it still needs to be downloaded, processed and then inserted in Google Earth. It would not be difficult at all to process all the imagery and make it work with Google Earth. The only issue is processing time and storage, which Google has in abundance. Google already offers the unprocessed data on Google Cloud. It could at least add processed ‘true colour’ versions to the database, even better would be to break it into smaller tiles.

  • With Panoramio being shut down in November this year, it is time that Google finally fixes user contributed Street View in Google Earth.

  • We would also love to see ‘historical Street View’ added to Google Earth. It currently only exists in the Google Maps version of Street View.

  • Better navigation tools for Street View would also be nice. Some ideas from Google Maps could be incorporated into Google Earth.

  • Google Earth has seen a number of layers being dropped. Other layers do not work correctly and are not being updated and maintained by the original data providers. We would love to see a revitalisation of the layers. Google could start by having a look at projects in Google Earth Engine such as the Global Surface Water Changes map.

  • Google Earth’s altitude data is often far from accurate. There is better quality altitude data available from open sources. We would like to see Google update the altitude data.

  • We are generally happy with the progress made in 3D imagery and hope to see this continue.

  • We would like to see more of the solar system planets and moons included in Google Earth.

  • We would like to see improvements to the Tour functionality of Google Earth. It is an underutilised feature of Google Earth, partly because it lacks flexibility and partly due to the lack of Tour creation tooling.

  • We would like the ability to save ‘My Places’ to the cloud and sync it with other computers as well as allowing simultaneous editing from multiple locations.


The blue dots of user contributed Street View can be seen in Google Earth, but there is no way to view the actual photos.

See our wish list from a couple of years ago here. A few of our wishes and those of our readers were actually fulfilled.

What is your wish list for Google Earth in 2017? Let us know in the comments.

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Observations about the 2016 ‘historical imagery’ updates http://www.gearthblog.com/blog/archives/2017/01/observations-2016-historical-imagery-updates.html http://www.gearthblog.com/blog/archives/2017/01/observations-2016-historical-imagery-updates.html#comments Fri, 13 Jan 2017 11:37:38 +0000 http://www.gearthblog.com/?p=20121 Earlier this week we released maps showing the imagery updates of 2016 according to the ‘historical imagery’ layer. The maps were created using the Google Earth Plugin/API, which Google has since shut down. It was scheduled to be shut down on January 11th. It was still working yesterday, January 12th, but is not today, January […]

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Earlier this week we released maps showing the imagery updates of 2016 according to the ‘historical imagery’ layer. The maps were created using the Google Earth Plugin/API, which Google has since shut down. It was scheduled to be shut down on January 11th. It was still working yesterday, January 12th, but is not today, January 13th.

Southern Hemisphere
The first thing to note about the maps of ‘historical imagery’ is that there is no imagery in the southern Hemisphere from July onwards. This is not because Google is not adding fresh imagery there, but because it only updated the ‘historical imagery’ layer for the Northern Hemisphere. During the first half of 2016, Google was updating ‘historical imagery’ almost weekly, but in mid-July they stopped and didn’t update it again until late December, but apparently only updated the Northern Hemisphere. They have been doing imagery updates for the Southern Hemisphere, but they can only be seen in the default layer.

Types of imagery
Google gathers aerial imagery for some parts of the world. We believe it collects the imagery itself as the imagery shows no attributions other than Google. There is also this page suggesting it sells aerial imagery, too. Aerial imagery can typically be identified by the size of the imagery patches. They tend to be large rectangles as opposed to the smaller rectangles or strips of satellite imagery. Aerial imagery is used almost exclusively for:

  • The continental United States.
  • Western Europe, excluding the Scandinavian countries.
  • Japan.

A few countries have received a mix of both satellite and aerial imagery:

  • Ireland
  • New Zealand
  • Australia.

If you see Google aerial imagery from 2016 anywhere else, please let us know in the comments.

Satellite imagery all seems to come from two suppliers, DigitalGlobe and CNES/Astrum.

Reasons for imagery
Aerial imagery, especially in the US, appears to be gathered on a schedule, with the US being covered approximately once every three years. Satellite imagery appears to be gathered for three basic reasons:

  1. To capture particular events. DigitalGlobe’s ‘FirstLook’ program gathers imagery of natural disasters, man-made disasters, political instability and human interest. See the FirstLook map to get an idea of what is covered. Most FirstLook imagery eventually makes its way into Google Earth. We have covered a number of these locations in previous posts. Imagery gathered for particular events tends to be of poorer quality, sometimes being black and white or false colour and having a high percentage of cloud cover.
  2. Particular locations of interest to the suppliers DigitalGlobe and CNES Astrum. This is especially noticeable with DigitalGlobe imagery, which is gathered very regularly for certain locations, usually cities.
  3. Random locations where the imagery suppliers managed to get good quality imagery because weather conditions were just right.

We do not know whether or not Google ever makes special orders for satellite imagery or what their agreements are with the satellite imagery suppliers.

Weather
Weather plays an important role in the gathering of imagery. Google avoids snow cover and cloud cover where possible, both of which are quite seasonal. This results in a curious pattern of imagery gathering, which you can see in this map.

Population
Sparsely populated areas such as mountains and deserts typically get a lot less imagery than highly populated areas.

Censorship
Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and the Ukraine are censored and got no updated imagery during 2016. We do not know how the censorship is achieved, but it is most likely not up to Google. Our guess is that the satellite imagery providers have been paid to not supply imagery to Google for those countries. Imagery is being gathered, and it would appear that you can buy imagery for those countries via TerraServer and other suppliers.


India and Pakistan got good coverage for 2016.

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Is Google selling Terra Bella to Planet? http://www.gearthblog.com/blog/archives/2017/01/google-selling-terra-bella-planet.html http://www.gearthblog.com/blog/archives/2017/01/google-selling-terra-bella-planet.html#respond Thu, 12 Jan 2017 12:01:05 +0000 http://www.gearthblog.com/?p=20101 A recent story in the news is a rumour that Google may be planning to sell its satellite imaging business Terra Bella (formerly Skybox Imaging) to satellite imaging company Planet (formerly Planet Labs). Google acquired Terra Bella, then Skybox Imaging, in mid 2014. At the time, Terra Bella had two satellites, SkySats 1 and 2. […]

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A recent story in the news is a rumour that Google may be planning to sell its satellite imaging business Terra Bella (formerly Skybox Imaging) to satellite imaging company Planet (formerly Planet Labs).

Google acquired Terra Bella, then Skybox Imaging, in mid 2014. At the time, Terra Bella had two satellites, SkySats 1 and 2. It added five more satellites to its constellation in 2016, SkySat 3 in June and then SkySats 4 through 7 in September. It has more launches planned for 2017, with some sources suggesting a fleet of 21 satellites by the end of the year.

It makes sense that Google would choose to sell Terra Bella as it really is not a particularly good fit with its other businesses. Terra Bella specialises in medium resolution satellite imagery – higher resolution than Landsat and Sentinel-2 but lower resolution than DigitalGlobe and CNES/Astrum the two main suppliers of satellite imagery for Google Earth. Terra Bella’s focus is cheap satellites and rapid or regular acquisition (enabled by launching a relatively large number of satellites). This is the exact same market that Planet is in, except Planet currently has a much larger fleet. Planet makes its own cheap satellites it calls Doves. We do not know how many are currently in orbit, but in just one launch last year it deployed 12 at once. You can see some others being launched from the Space Station on Planets Blog. Planet also acquired RapidEye in 2015, which consists of a fleet of five satellites.

We have only once seen a Terra Bella image in Google Earth and it was removed soon after we discovered it. It appeared to have been a test of some sort and was in the middle of the Sahara where Google probably thought nobody would notice it.


A gif animation of the Burning Man festival created by Terra Bella.

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SpaceX in Google Earth http://www.gearthblog.com/blog/archives/2017/01/spacex-google-earth.html http://www.gearthblog.com/blog/archives/2017/01/spacex-google-earth.html#comments Wed, 11 Jan 2017 10:11:41 +0000 http://www.gearthblog.com/?p=20092 This weekend, on January 14th, SpaceX hopes to return to flight with their first launch since the explosion last September on the launchpad of their rocket carrying the Amos-6 mission. As fans of SpaceX, we thought this would be a good time to have a look at some SpaceX related sights in Google Earth. Space […]

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This weekend, on January 14th, SpaceX hopes to return to flight with their first launch since the explosion last September on the launchpad of their rocket carrying the Amos-6 mission. As fans of SpaceX, we thought this would be a good time to have a look at some SpaceX related sights in Google Earth.


Space Launch Complex 40, Cape Canaveral, Florida, location of the launchpad explosion. Image captured one month after the explosion.


If you switch to ‘historical imagery’ with the 3D buildings layer turned on, you can see a 3D model of a SpaceX rocket on the launch pad.

SpaceX is noted for being able to (some of the time) land the first stage of their rockets either on land or on an autonomous spaceport drone ship.


Space Launch Complex 1, Cape Canaveral, Florida. SpaceX’s east coast landing site.


One of SpaceX’s autonomous spaceport drone ships named ‘Of Course I Still Love You’ in Port of Jacksonville, Florida.


One of the drone ships in Port of Jacksonville, Florida as seen in 3D imagery. We are not certain which as there is no name and the deck layout is slightly different from ‘Of Course I Still Love You’

‘Of Course I Still Love You’ can also be seen in Port Cape Canaveral in October 2016. See the KML file at the end of the post for the location.


A successfully landed first stage being unloaded from ‘Of Course I Still Love You’ in Port Cape Canaveral in June 2016. See in Street View.

Note that you can also explore some of the launch complexes in Street View.


‘Just Read the Instructions’, SpaceX’s west coast drone ship seen in Port of Los Angeles, California.


The SpaceX testing facility in McGregor, Texas


SpaceX headquarters, 1 Rocket Road, Los Angeles. The X is drawn with solar panels. Also note next door neighbour Tesla.

For the above locations and more, including the location of a planned private spaceport at the southern tip of Texas, download this KML file.

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Two stages of construction in Google Earth 3D imagery http://www.gearthblog.com/blog/archives/2017/01/two-stages-construction-google-earth-3d-imagery.html http://www.gearthblog.com/blog/archives/2017/01/two-stages-construction-google-earth-3d-imagery.html#comments Tue, 10 Jan 2017 10:47:45 +0000 http://www.gearthblog.com/?p=20064 Thank you to GEB reader Jacob for bringing to our attention an interesting effect in Google Earth’s 3D imagery. In Kingston, Ontario, Canada, there is a building in the 3D imagery that seems to be a combination of imagery from when it was still under construction and imagery from after its completion. The result is […]

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Thank you to GEB reader Jacob for bringing to our attention an interesting effect in Google Earth’s 3D imagery. In Kingston, Ontario, Canada, there is a building in the 3D imagery that seems to be a combination of imagery from when it was still under construction and imagery from after its completion. The result is quite interesting and worth exploring in Google Earth. Find it in Google Earth with this KML file. Be sure to turn on the 3D buildings layer.

The 3D imagery was only recently added to Google Earth (first reported by GEB readers on January 3rd, 2017) but, based on historical imagery the building was constructed between May 2014, when there is no building visible, and September 2015 when it is mostly finished. So at least some of the imagery used to create the 3D is several years old.

We have previously noted a case where a building could be seen in different stages of construction depending on zoom level and an instance where whole buildings were missing from the 3D imagery.

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