Google Earth Blog rarely comments on other mapping products since it is focused on GE. However, the release last night of Microsoft’s Windows Live Local new imagery for the UK is worth mentioning. The new Live Local imagery is really much superior to the satellite/aerial photos in the Google Earth/Maps database for the UK (Google above, Microsoft below in screenshot of the London Eye here). Live Local’s imagery has been processed for clarity, color balance, and sharpness. The resolution is equal to Google’s best imagery for the area, and it is much better in several areas in the UK where Google’s isn’t even high resolution. For a real comparison, I recommend trying FlashEarth which lets you zoom with the mousewheel and simply click between Live Local and Google Maps satellite views. Google’s data looks like a patched quilt of imagery from on high, while Microsofts looks much more consistent.
Not long ago Microsoft announced it had invested serious money to compete with Google, and they have made some significant acquisitions of companies in the aerial photography and virtual earth industry. Hopefully Google has been taking notes. Because Google is going to need to release some serious upgrades soon to Google Maps and Google Earth or they will lose the leadership advantage they have had for the last year. Also see OgleEarth’s comments on this subject.
I decided to try using Google’s Picassa on the Google Maps version of the London Eye used in the comparison above. I did a “feeling lucky”, color saturation, and a sharpness. The quality of the new image is much improved. This is the kind of thing I’m sure Microsoft has done with their data in order to get the better look. You can see the result in the photo here (click on the thumbnail for a better view).
Now all Google needs to do is a “little” processing on several hundred thousand square kilometers of photos and their pictures will look just as good. 🙂
About Frank Taylor
Frank Taylor started the Google Earth Blog in July, 2005 shortly after Google Earth was first released. He has worked with 3D computer graphics and VR for many years and was very impressed with this exciting product. Frank completed a 5.5 year circumnavigation of the earth by sailboat in June 2015 which you can read about at Tahina Expedition, and is a licensed pilot, backpacker, diver, and photographer.
Michael Schaap says
The reason that Google Earth looks like a patched quilt when zoomed out, while MS Live Local doesn’t, is because Google Earth *is* a patched quilt, basically, while MS Live Local isn’t.
The difference is that MS Live Local has multiple levels of images, as you can clearly see when you slowly zoom out. Google Earth does not, and uses the same high-resolution images when you’re zoomed out all the way out of the solar system. 🙂
It would, IMHO, be quite an improvement for Google Earth if it would do the same thing, and, for instance, just show the TrueEarth map below a certain zoom level.
Alex Daley says
If you like the aerial imagery we have rolled out in the UK, it is worth noting that bird’s eye images are starting to roll out in the region now as well. Check out this public collection for some of the highlights:
We feel the bird’s eye imagery adds a great deal more context to the image, giving users a better feel for what a region or building actually looks like and enhancing the directions and local search functionality. We will continue to expand the coverage of bird’s eye with regular additions.
The color can always be enhanced if need be, but I see that Google’s imagery has better detail in the shadows. You can see almost nothing in MS’s shadows.
Olivier Mengue says
The ships are different in the two pictures: this is not just an image processing difference.
This competition between Google Earth and Microsoft Live Local can only bring good things.
I wonder how detalied the maps will be in a couple of years! 🙂
Mr G says
It looks like it is being changed as it is now live local search beta. The aerial view has gone and the
search box is not to helpful (it took me ages to find a term that worked, and it doesn’t give you any suggestions).
I hope this isn’t going to be the final version as it’s basically a poor version of yell.com
how often are the aerial shots updated?