Four minutes into this demo of Google’s Android mobile platform, you get to see a 3D globe that you can spin by dragging your finger across the touch screen:
But it’s not Google Earth; it’s an application that the presenter, Steve Horowitz, calls “global time”, presumably because it can show you what time of day it is on different parts of the planet. I bet this is what the New York Times supposed was Google Earth, and it is certainly what Robert Scoble erroneously refers to as “a Google earth map” in his post about that video. (Still, if he hadn’t called it that, my RSS reader’s filters wouldn’t have picked it up, so I can’t complain too loudly:-)
Horowitz says the spinning globe was written using Android’s built-in support for integrated 3D graphics if the device has it — and a bit later he is showing us a version of the first-person shooter Doom. The demo hardware reference device on which he shows both the globe and Doom is a bit bigger than an existing mobile phone, though.
Two things come to mind:
- Built-in support for 3D graphics on a mobile device running Linux makes it quite likely, I imagine, that we will eventually get a version of Google Earth. If the much-ported Doom can run on it today, it’s only a matter of time before Google Earth and Second Life (which also comes in a Linux version) are running on it. Now there’s a scary thought: Playing Second Life continuously from anywhere and anytime in your first life. (And imagine the things you could do with it if such a device were to have motion sensors:-) I wonder if this will be the start of mobile phone devices encroaching on Sony PlayStation PSP’s market segment.
- In the demo, the “global time” application is not shown being zoomed in. But even if it can do so, props should go to Swedish company Wayfinder for their visionary zoomable globe/map hybrid that launched in May 2006. Watch the 90-second video demo of Wayfinder Earth here. Wayfinder’s Earth is 2D masquerading as 3D, of course, but as long as true 3D isn’t feasible on truly mobile phones, that will be the way to go.
A bit later in the video you also get to see a demo of Google Maps that looks very similar to how it works on the iPhone, although the Android version has support for Street View, and you can scroll and zoom the panorama using touch-screen gestures. I’d be surprised if that doesn’t come to the Apple iPhone soon, as it is the obvious enhancement to Google Maps on a touch screen.
I’m surprised how far along Android is on the demos. It is quite similar in aesthetics and functionality as the iPhone, I feel, which to me suggests that Android and iPhone will be setting the benchmark in 18 months time. Those mobile operating systems that do not by then support touch-screen pinching and liquid graphics will be history.