University of Southern California’s Julian Bleecker has a very interesting summer project going: Playing Battleships using Google Earth as a game board, but with the twist that you have to physically visit the location on the board you want to attack, using your mobile phone to “call in” a strike.
There have been previous instances of real-time mobile gaming using phones, but this is the first time I’ve seen Google Earth used in the process. Julian has an interesting notion to describe this kind of gaming: It’s a “1st Life/2nd Life mashup”, in that real-world actions impact the state of a virtual world.
Implementation is rather spotty, but it doesn’t matter at all — this is a brave new use for Google Earth, and one that makes absolute sense, with hindsight: Because Google Earth aspires to be a mirror world, it will always be open to receiving inputs from the real world, as there is a one-to-one correlation between places on Earth and places on Google Earth. This happens to be the main difference between the likes of Google Earth and imaginary virtual worlds like Second Life; Julian’s Battleships proof of concept drives this home.
Going somewhat speculative, now: The next generation of mobile phones will know exactly where you are and will be able to tell it to you, to your mobile applications, to your trusted friends (and to operators and the government). The opportunities for feeding your location to a mobile Google Maps and to Google Earth are self-evident. I think this is why so much effort is being expended by Google, Yahoo! et al to secure a place on your mobile’s screen now for both maps and search. In the future, your mobile phone will be your avatar cum concierge cum beacon. The only question is, whose software will you be using? I reckon that the company with the best global base map will be at a natural advantage.