Ping Pong Ball Interface to Google Earth – Cool!

Atlas Gloves - Ping Pong Balls - for controlling Google EarthBack in May a video was released showing some guys controlling Google Earth by using lighted ping pong balls in a darkened room. Those of you who saw the movie “Minority Report” might get an idea of the type of control this might give you. Or, you could just watch this video of the demonstration. The “Atlas Gloves” system uses a cheap web camera to pick up position of the balls. You simply gesture with the lighted ping pong balls to zoom in on aerial photos, to pan the Earth, or even tilt your views. This is a really neat concept in alternative interfaces to 3D worlds. Back in my NASA days, when I was doing research in Virtual Reality, we used data gloves, which cost about $5-10K, to interact with 3D content. This is actually a much less expensive way to do pretty much the same thing. The Atlas Gloves guys have instructions on making the lighted ping-pong balls for $8 in about 5-minutes. The software, which was just released, is open software. Seems inexpensive, and easy, enough for almost anyone to try out. So, look for a report from me soon on how well it works. Via OgleEarth.

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. This is really an interesting post and shows how easily these guys controlled such an important site like Google Earth with the help of lighted ping pong balls. It took them only some cheap web cameras and some balls to alter this site. Web cams are really very important computer accessories these days.

  2. Hurray for open source software that allows us to do really cool things like this!

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