ISDE5 Day 2 Summary

There was a lot of interesting things presented at the Internation Symposium for Digital Earth on Day 2. Read my overview of ISDE5 here, or visit their web site for more details. Also, read my summary from ISDE5 Day 1. Below the fold is an overview of just a few of the many highlights from Day 2 from my perspective (Note: there were other presentations and important things said, but the focus for this blog post is largely Google Earth related. Also, I couldn’t go to all the parallel sessions. My apologies for not mentioning everything worth mentioning.)

  • Pete Worden – Director, NASA Ames Research Center – gave an interesting presentation on his objectives to try and help get more data from NASA into the hands of the public especially as it relates to Earth Observations. His goals are to engage the private sector, and increase focus on global change. He mentioned he is proud to be working with Google to have more data be available through Google Earth (perhaps there will be some NASA layers soon?). He also talked about the Global Connection Project and the efforts they made to help with disaster relief efforts for Katrina. He also pointed out several times that NASA’s own Worldwind product has many useful applications. For instance, he pointed out a company called Intelesense which is using Worldwind as a platform to provide data visualization for their wireless sensor devices. His appeal: NASA invites industry to join with our current partners to provide value-added solutions. He said they have lots more data than they have money, but they are willing to share data.
  • In the Q&A session after Pete Worden’s talk, someone piped up to say NASA should be encouraging other platforms than Google Earth because it is a proprietary format not an open standard, and that other platforms aren’t supporting it. I jumped up a bit later to point out this was wrong and that KML has been submitted to the OGC as an open standard and, in fact, Worldwind and other platforms do support KML. The guy who made the original comment replied, “But, they haven’t released the imagery as an open standard.” To which I was a bit stunned (and almost laughed), because a) the enormous amount of imagery Google has comes from commercial sources who have intentions to sell the imagery for those who need it; and b) it’s the user generated content that uses KML that is particularly important – not the imagery.
  • The International Polar Year presented a basic overview of what IPY is all about. Rhian Salmon shared how 63 countries, 250 different projects with thousands of scientists and other people involved in helping better understand both the Arctic and Antarctic. Next, Matt Nolan made some amusing observations how maps, until recently, did a poor job of showing northern latitudes. He then briefly showed how new virtual globes like Google Earth are making a big difference in helping people understand more about the poles. More will be coming out about this later in the week.
  • Rebecca Moore, Tech Lead at Google for the GE Layers was the session chair on a very interesting series of talks. She spoke passionately about her belief that Google Earth has already made a difference in helping raise awareness about global issues. There were many questions and enthusiastic positive comments made after this session.
    • First, Rebecca Moore talked about her efforts to help save Redwood forests near her home in California from a proposed lumber project using Google Earth.
    • Next we heard from Mark Plotkin of the Amazon Conservation Team about his efforts to help protect Amazon rain forests by enlisting the aid of indigenous indians to map their lands using GPS and Google Earth. Many amazing tales of training primitive people to take ownership and document their own land legacy from people who have no written history. And the efforts have been very successful as well.
    • Mary Anne Hitt, Executive Director of Appalacian Voices – spoke eloquently about the terrible travesty of mountain top removal coal mining and the awful effects to the environment and people’s lives. And more importantly, the great success they have had by using Google Earth to help raise awareness to just how serious the situation is. Read my stories about this layer and how it was later incorporated as a built-in GE layer.
    • Michael Graham and Matthew Levinger, US Holocaust Memorial Museum gave an excellent overview of their efforts to create the Crisis in Darfur layer for Google Earth (with the help of many volunteers). They explained why it was important, and how having the layer in GE has already helped get more attention to this terrible human abuse.
  • There were several parallel sessions in the afternoon. Here are a few things I took note of:
    • explained why environmental organizations should become more aware of how virtual globes and other digital earth technologies can help their cause by helping the general public become better educated and aware of the issues. John Amos illustrated an example of how they used Google Earth and other technologies to illustrate an environmental problem in the Upper Green River Valley region of Wyoming caused by the US government allowing gas well mining on public lands without public consideration of the impacts.
    • John Bailey – of the Arctic Regions Supercomputing Center and the Alaska Volcano Observatory – explained and gave examples of the many ways Google Earth can be used to visualize scientific and environmental data. He said in particular it can be useful for telling stories. He mentioned Declan Butler’s Avian Flu, Jane Goodall’s Gombe Chimpanzee layer, the Volcano layer by the Smithsonian Institute, the USGS Earthquake monitoring tool, the James Reserve sensor net – just to name a few. His point is that there is a diverse range of capabilities for those interested in telling a story with GE that could be important for scientific, environmental, or just human interest. He developed a video illustrating a story of the eruption of the Augustine volcano in Alaska in 100 seconds – see it at YouTube here.
    • Gigapan is a project from the Global Connection project (which has grown from Carnegon Mellon University and NASA to include people from Google and many other organizations). Gigapan is a robotic camera system that enables a digital camera to take dozens of photos in a “grid” to make a panorama photo with enormous (Gigapixel) resolutions. They have also developed custom viewers for viewing these photos (since they are too large for things like QuicktimeVR to handle).
    • Pedro Yarza Álvarez who works for AEPO (a consulting company in Madrid, Spain). He presented an innovative application of integrating video technology inside Google Earth. Video logs created for a department of transportation to study the quality of roads can be shown in GE by placing frames of the video on 3D surfaces and “flying” you down the road in GE as if you were driving the vehicle. See a summary of his paper and YouTube videos demonstrating the techniques (this is the better video).
    • Lisa Ballagh, of the National Snow and Ice Data Center gave a talk largely about the importance of GeoRSS for disseminating location information with RSS feeds. You can find GeoRSS feeds from the NSIDC and their project with NOAA here. You can also see some Google Earth content from NSIDC (including some new stuff I’ll have to write about later).

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.

PLEASE NOTE: Google Earth Blog is no longer writing regular posts. As a result, we are not accepting new comments or questions about Google Earth. If you have a question, use the official Google Earth and Maps Forums or the Google Earth Community Forums.


  1. Nice round up

  2. The Gigapan project looks very interesting, especially their attempt to make the technology available in a consumer product.
    I’ve seen another similar project, found at
    These folks appear to be taking the same approach.
    I just LOVE this stuff!

PLEASE NOTE: Google Earth Blog is no longer writing regular posts. As a result, we are not accepting new comments or questions about Google Earth. If you have a question, use the official Google Earth and Maps Forums or the Google Earth Community Forums.