Links: Michael Jones Talk, Static Maps Mashup, Google Earth Game, Sky Lawsuit, Microsoft Sky

  • Michael Jones Talk – I discovered earlier this week that Michael Jones (who has been the primary Google spokesperson for Google Earth – with the title of Chief Technologist of Google Earth) was speaking in Chapel Hill, North Carolina as part of a distinguished lecture series by RENCI. Michael gave an excellent talk, as usual, which described how tools like Google Earth and Maps have begun improving the way we relate information to geospatial location. This was not a technical talk, and unfortunately there were no hints at forthcoming developments for Google Earth. But, I greatly enjoyed how surprised people in the audience were at the variety of features of Google Earth Michael demonstrated. Many people came up to him afterwards expressing: “I didn’t know Google Earth did that.” Michael on a couple of occasions pointed people over to me and said they should be reading GEB. 🙂 Michael was sporting a new title of “Chief Technology Advocate” in the lecture bio. In speaking with him afterwards, he will be expanding his role at Google to not just advocate the Google Earth/Maps products, but for Google as a whole.

  • Static Maps Mashup – Yesterday Google announced a new API for Google Maps which lets you create “static maps”. These are single image snapshots of a map you specify which do not require you to load the javascript application wrapper. They aren’t dynamic (you can’t zoom/pan the map). But, there are situations where this could be useful. Well, Barry Hunter of Nearby – an accomplished Google Earth developer – quickly implemented a nice little network link hack that lets you generate a Google Maps view in a placemark description for your current view in Google Earth. Try it here . Since placemark descriptions can’t use javascript, this new API is a perfect solution for this situation. The only problem is that the API only allows 1000 “calls” per day. So, if too many people try this you may get an error when trying it.

  • Google Earth Game – Mickey at Google Earth Hacks has announced he is developing a new game for Google Earth. This time its a multi-player role playing dungeon’s and dragon kind of game. Currently the game is in closed beta, but I’m on the list. I’ll report what I think soon. Mickey says the entire game will be played within Google Earth, so you won’t have to load a separate application.

  • Sky Lawsuit – Last week it came out that Google was being sued by a former contractor who claims he gave the idea of Sky to Google in 2006. Stefan Geens at OgleEarth was quick to point out that the suit appears frivolous since it was obvious Google had started on this much earlier in 2006 than the contractor claimed. One interesting tidbit: during Michael Jones’ talk last night he mentioned that he was in Hawaii meeting with astronomers to collect data for the Google Sky project in the fall of 2005. Six months before the contractor began working for Google. Further proof that the suit has no basis.

  • Microsoft Sky – Speaking of Sky – Microsoft will leave no stone unturned when it comes to continuing its effort to beat Google. Apparently on February 27th, Microsoft will be releasing a program to challenge Google Earth’s Sky at showing the heavens to the masses. The program is rumored to be called Microsoft Worldwide Telescope and will use Photosynth-based technology. According to Techcrunch – which revealed the upcoming announcement – the new application will be better than Google Sky. We’ll see…

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. Any chance we can download the lecture?

  2. this doesn’t have anything to do with what you posted, but i found a hole in the imagery coverage, that’s not a result of censoring or anything as far as i know and can tell.
    just west of 108 Mile House, BC

  3. A GoogleSky meeting in Hawaii 2005? I’d love to know who was there and what the meeting was about.

  4. Alberto, even as I mentioned at Stefan’s blog — anyone who thinks that a concept like ‘sky’ wasn’t discussed within professional circles for years are deluding themselves.
    And as far as MS’s version being ‘better’ — I think they’ll have to get passed the browser plug-in issues involved before I’d consider it ‘better’. ‘Comparible’ might be a ‘better’ euphanism in their case.

  5. Alberto, it was not a branded “Google Sky” meeting as my scouting actions are usually in advance of product commitments. It was one of several trips in 2005 where I spoke with people about our interest in the linkage of astronomy data and Google Earth. In some cases I made my interest plain (at Keck, for example) while in some others (Subaru, Canada France Hawaii) I was just extremely curious.
    We have been exploring the sky idea for a long time. You may remember that in 2002, Keyhole launched a special version of the product as a marketing promotion with NVIDIA. That version had Mars in addition to Earth. We also did a Moon database but that was not publicly launched. Before, during, and after that time we considered just about every possible visualization opportunity–with seeing the Universe being an consistent desire. It is great to see long-anticipated engineering dreams come true, and to finally help so many people enjoy the majesty of the skies.

  6. Michael,
    thinking that no one had thought about some sort of GoogleSky well before its release, is simply silly: I completely agree with you.
    Åll I was saying is that, as a statement of fact, I was the one from the Hubble Space Telescope that made contact with Google and initiated a collaboration that gave GoogleSky images from the second most important telescope of all time (the first being Galileo’s).
    I believe that GoogleSky is as successful as it is in large part because of the stunning images from Hubble.

  7. SDSS imagery was accessible from World Wind much earlier than Google Sky was launched. And Google Sky was an obvious idea anyway. That lawsuit is absurd. Don’t these people have anything better to do?

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.