Ayers Rock in High Resolution

Ayers Rock in Google EarthDuring the demonstrations at last week’s Google Geo Developer Day one of the many new sights seen was Ayers Rock (or Uluru) in Australia which is now available in high resolution satellite photos. Since Google was kind enough to add 4 times as many places in high resolution on June 8th, it’s inevitable there are many new places such as Ayers Rock now viewable in Google Earth. I’m expecting a flood of new interesting sights such as this in the coming weeks.
Some people may notice the shape of the rock is not the same as in real life. Keep in mind that the digital elevation model Google uses is based on data from NASA’s space shuttle, and they have chosen to keep the data to a manageable size for computer memory to make sure as many users as possible can view the 3D data. If they used even higher resolution 3D terrain data it might slow down the experience too much for those with slower computers. It would be nice if there were a higher resolution terrian option for those with more horsepower.

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.


  1. Frank, I’d say the limiting factor on higher resolution terrain models would be the bandwith required.

  2. Ick of the East says:

    I think you will find that if you look at Uluru from the North West and get as close to the ground as possible, it looks pretty darn near a postcard image. Much better than your screenshot above.

  3. James: actually, 3D terrain meshes are usually pretty low bandwidth (they usually compress well as well). It’s the memory useage for high polygon counts that’s the issue based on my experience.

    Ick of the east: You’re right, the rock does look better from the north west!

  4. I haven’t thoroughly researched the affect on quality or system performance, but GE4 has an option for higher quality terrain (look under Options -> View).

  5. Actually I know a lot about 3D terrains due to my current job. While going from a 30 meter DEM to a 10 meter DEM doesn’t add much on top of requirements, it is the total addition to Google’s bandwith that I’d guess would be the limiting factor. We’ve run into that problem ourselves with scaling our work from workgroup to enterprise level.

  6. velojohng says:

    Note that in version 4, you can change the number of elevation points used to depict terrain. The trade off of course is performance.
    The setting is Tools > Options > View > Terrain Settings.

  7. I have been so hugely impressed with the significant increase in hi-res data for remote areas of Australia that I have blown my download limit !
    The only problem I have is with the inconsistency of the coverage – strips of hi-res in the middle of quite useless (to me) low-res areas.
    Is there any information available as to when the rest of Australia will be lifted to the same 1m resolution so that I can find more caves with it ?
    Thanks in advance,
    Paul H
    Cave e-Explorer !!

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