As the year is drawing to a close, Stefan at Ogle Earth decided to take a look at three trends that he sees for Google Earth in 2010. Based on changes in the last few months, these all seem to be likely directions for Google Earth/Maps next year.
–1– Imagery Freshness
Stefan has pointed out that new imagery being added to Google Earth is more fresh than it used to be. In the past, “new” imagery was often 6-12 months old. With recent updates, some imagery is only a matter of weeks old.
In addition to that, imagery updates are being pushed out more often. It used to be monthly, and lately we’ve been seeing them twice a month. I think both of these trends are likely to continue in 2010 and beyond.
–2– Map and Imagery Correlation
In some parts of the world, such as Egypt and China, the map data and the imagery don’t often line up very well. This poses problems when people add POI data (like a restaurant) in the map layer, and it shows up 500 meters away in the imagery. As the layers are corrected and reconciled, many POIs will be very inaccurately placed.
This is certainly something that Google is constantly working on, and should improve even further in 2010. It also seems likely that they’ll expand their “Report a Problem” system to more countries to help improve map data even further.
–3– Cloud Power
The final area that Stefan thinks will see rapid expansion in 2010 is having more of your user-data synced to Google. As it stands right now, there is still a lot of local file management required to really use Google Earth — uploading/downloading KML files, etc.
For example, your “My Places” layer could be easily synced to Google so you can have the same set of places on all of your computers. Expanding from there, it’d be fairly easy to share places with other users from within Google Earth, rather than having to save a file, upload/email it, and then have the other user load it into their copy of the program. Not only is a that cumbersome, but it creates two distinct copies of the file that aren’t kept in sync — changes to one of them are not reflected in the other.
The recent release of Google Earth 2.0 for the iPhone effectively makes it a more connected product than Google Earth on your computer. You can have it sync directly to your My Maps data, which is something you can’t do yet on the full version of Google Earth. The iPhone version certainly has many shortcomings (no image overlays, no 3D models, etc), but this aspect of its functionality is likely a sign of what’s to come.
Those are the items that Stefan thought were worth mentioning. Some others that I think we’ll see more of in 2010:
— 3D Buildings —
Google has been pushing out 3D buildings much more rapidly as the year has progressed. Not only are they continuing to put out huge auto-generated 3D cities, but the expanding Building Maker coverage area could really be the key. I’ve built a few dozen models in Building Maker, but I’d really like to make models I care about — my house, my church, favorite restaurants, etc. As the coverage area expands, more people will find that they can build their locations in 3D, and it’ll continue to accelerate.
— StreetView —
This is another area where Google has been pushing hard lately. They’ve been adding data at a torrid pace (such as a few days ago) and that seems likely to continue. I said a few years ago that I thought StreetView might simply be a temporary solution, as 3D modeled worlds would eventually be more useful. I still think that’s true, but it’ll be quite a while until we reach that degree of realism in Google Earth.
In addition, for 3D models to be truly useful at that scale, they’ll need excellent imagery to map onto the models. They’ve already started using StreetView imagery for that and showed us how great it can be, and I’d expect we’ll see more of it.
So that’s what I think. What do you think will be the direction of Google Earth next year?