Major Geek Cred

A video I created for this blog was shown today by Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, on NASA Select TV during a lecture he gave at a NASA 50th Anniversary lecture series in Washington, DC! I had read somewhere that Eric Schmidt was going to be giving a presentation at NASA so I set up to watch it. Imagine my surprise seeing the Swiss Alps Fighter Tour video demonstrated! (NOTE: NASA is broadcasting Eric’s talk again on NASA Select at 4:00 PM EST, it may be on again at 10 PM EST, and/or 6 AM EST)
Eric’s talk started out by describing the ways Google is using some of NASA’s data to do things like show the 3D terrain in Google Earth, satellite imagery, Hubble Space Telescope images in Sky, moon data in Google Moon, etc. Eric demonstrated (with help from Google Earth team member Robin Zeigler) several things in Google Earth including 3D buildings, the Hurricane Katrina time animation by Brian Flood, one of the several rising water animations, and my Swiss Fighter tour video. He also talked about the project that Vint Cerf is involved with to create an interplanetary Internet by linking together exploratory spacecraft. He urged NASA to architect their projects more like Internet projects in the technology industry. He thinks NASA should try many different smaller projects simultaneously rather than putting all their eggs in one basket with a single large mission. This way NASA has a much greater chance of success on risky missions. (Hopefully NASA will post an archived copy of the video of Eric’s lecture – I’ll post it here if they do.)
So, about the Swiss Alps video Eric showed: I created the video to illustrate how realistic the new Swiss Alps 3D terrain was in Google Earth by simulating the same flight flown by a real Swiss Air Force fighter pilot in another popular YouTube video. You can play the two YouTube videos simultaneously and see how similar the two videos look (turn off the sound on the second, Google Earth, video). By the way, this is how Eric had it demonstrated as well – both videos together:


Google Earth

A little more background on the video: I dreamed up the idea shortly after the Swiss Alps 3D terrain was released in Google Earth. I wanted a way to illustrate how cool I thought the new data was, and someone had coincidentally sent me the Swiss fighter YouTube video. It took me like 8 hours to figure out all the places where the fighter flew, and to practice flying each sequence until I got a close approximation of the real video. My wife came in asking me what I was doing that was taking so long. And I told her – “Well, I’m making this video for a blog entry – and I’m hoping I’ll get some geek cred for doing it. Maybe it will get a Digg or something.“. The video was a pretty big hit and got something like 50,000 views in the first two weeks. A couple of weeks later, I got a call from one of the managers of the Google Earth project at Google who told me a funny thing. He said: “I just went to make a presentation on Google Earth to Eric Schmidt and as I walked in the door he says: ‘Hey, did you see that cool video Frank Taylor made of the Swiss Alps?’.” Eric Schmidt is well known as a geek himself, so I told my wife I definitely earned some major geek cred. This was about 9 months ago. So, I wasn’t totally surprised to see Eric showing it at NASA – but, it was still a pretty cool thing to see nonetheless!

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. Good work makes friends. 😉

  2. This is awesome, Frank! I’m not very good with the flight simulator mode. I need to practice. By the way, Google Earth’s COM API provides access to the camera angle, etc. Someone should figure out how to synchronize GE with an actual airplane using this… Well, this can be done with a network link with time-based refresh, too, I guess.

  3. It’s great to see the planetary work and missions that NASA does be highlighted, but the major planet that NASA should be monitoring is right here…Earth. NASA has built (and continues to) some amazing research sensors and satellite payloads that reveal increasingly powerful information on Earth’s terrain, atmosphere, water cycle, chemistry, weather and climate. Most people don’t realize that NASA coordinates and launches the US operational environmental satellites (GOES and POES). I realize that in times of crisis all programs need to take a hit, but let’s defend the needed monitoring systems for the most critical planet.
    Unfortunately, with the recent focus on

  4. Snaps for you, dude! It is always pretty cool to have your stuff selected to be shown to real rocket scientists!

  5. PenguinOpus says:

    Congratulations, Frank. It’s a great video and you should remind folks that you did it _before_ there was a real flightsim mode. The old ctrl-G navmode was tough to use.

  6. I’m a geek, and I give you cred! Nice work!

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.