iPhone Earth – Coolest Things I saw at Where 2.0 2008

[UPDATE 27 October 2008: If you’re looking for the official Google Earth for the iPhone app story – which was released 26th of October, read this post. The post below was another iPhone app that looked like Google Earth, but was published by Earthscape earlier this summer.]
Last week at the 2008 Where 2.0, there were a number of interesting technologies being shown in the exhibit hall. One of the most interesting exhibits I saw was by a Boulder, Colorado company called earthscape. They showed a number of interesting things (see below), but what really impressed me was when their CEO Tom Churchill pulled out his iPhone to show me how they’re working on a 3D Earth application for the iPhone. Check out this video I made as he demonstrated it to me:

I was particularly impressed when I saw they had used the iPhone accelerometers to allow you to tilt and rotate your view by tilting the iPhone. They weren’t downloading the imagery data over the net, it was all running local with just imagery for the San Francisco area. But, it was still very cool! The application is under development using the Apple iPhone SDK. So, assuming they finish the product, it should run under iPhone 2.0. You would definitely only want to run a real app like this if you had a WiFI connection or 3G – imagery and 3D takes a lot of bandwidth. But, this demo definitely makes me look forward to the possibility Google will maybe have a version of Google Earth running on our phones. NOTE: the beta sign-up on their home page is not for the iPhone Earth it’s for their geobrowser (next paragraph).
When I first saw earthscape’s booth, they were showing something that grabbed my eye. They have been developing their own Google Earth-like geobrowser. When I first saw it, the browser was showing a life-like 3D model of an airliner flying over 3D terrain. I spoke to their CEO Tom Churchill at the booth, and he described what was going on. They had developed an in-flight plane tracker for passengers using their 3D browser which showed the position of the aircraft in 3D relative to ground. Passengers can switch to the inside of the cockpit (also rendered in 3D), top-down, or oblique views. They also demonstrated geotagged photos. Tom said they had been working on their browser for 3 years, and they’ve obviously been able to look at other browsers (like GE) and innovate new UI techniques and data. I liked how they implemented the ability to switch to different base imagery showing older aerial photos. They mentioned a Javascript API to control the geobrowser. I’ve signed up for the beta on their web site.
And, if that’s not enough – during the Where 2.0 sessions earthscape presented demonstrations of software they are developing showing augmented reality for police helicopter pilots. They showed video of the helicopter pilot looking at infrared night video cameras through his goggles. Their software automatically showed augmented information such as street names, addresses, and other useful information so the pilot could concentrate more on flying and keeping his target (usually a car trying to escape capture) in sight. At any moment the pilot can easily tell ground forces the location of the target. Very cool technology! Because of the relevancy to Google Earth, and just the way cool way their iPhone Earth worked, they get my vote for coolest tech shown at Where 2.0.

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. Every day brings more reasons why I’ll need to get an iPhone next month. Very cool!

  2. smokeonit says

    the iphone on sale now can do that too! after the next software update!

  3. Thanks Frank! Today you got a great referrer at TechCrunch ( http://snurl.com/2aonx ).Hopefully it will send you a good bunch of visitors that will have the chance to see the quality of your posts.
    Cheers from South Spain!

  4. I wonder if the iPhone will function with all it’s features when they release it in South East Asia in the third quarter of this year.

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  6. I didn’t know this was available for the iPhone!!! Thanks…learn something new every day! Love this site, BTW.

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.