Greetings from Sweden, where everything is lagom.
By far the most mainstream news coverage of Google Earth this week was gained by Disney’s foray into modelling its amusement park properties in 3D as a default layer in Google Earth. Yawn. I think it is time we start being underwhelmed by such cases of “more of the same”, especially if we’re looking at information-poor corporate PR stunts. The models are highly detailed, yes, perhaps some of the best yet (save for the trees), but above all this launch to me serves to highlight the limits of the current technology — or rather, last year’s technology.
To wit, Google Earth’s Disney Land does not let you try the rides; Nor can you natively explore Disney’s properties with somebody else, virtually. Instead, you get a static, unpopulated representation of a theme park, devoid of any information you might actually want to use, such as where are the toilets, or what are the opening hours of this restaurant, or what is the current queueing time for this ride right now?
The new Google Earth API will go a long way to providing a 3D programmable environment, much like Second Life does, so that you could try a ride or explore with a friend far away.
Such 3D programmable environments are much more amenable to making a 3D virtual representation of a theme park actually useful. With the Google Earth API, you could build, by way of example, a service that, given which rides you want to see and how much time you have, solves the travelling salesman problem for you and then shows you the shortest route, taking into account current waiting times for rides. Now that would be innovative.
Jay Rasulo, Chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts writes on the Official Google Blog:
Last May, Eric Schmidt and I met to talk about The Walt Disney Company’s focus on technology. We started to explore innovative ways we could work together to bring one of the world’s most magical destinations to Google Earth’s millions of users…
And ends with:
… we invite you to explore the Walt Disney World Resort in Google Earth. It’s the next best thing to being there.
Making a 3D model of your properties or a town in Google Earth sure is fun, but let’s be clear: It’s no longer innovative, and it is certainly not “the next best thing to being there”.
(PS. I probably would be kinder to this layer if people weren’t screaming from the rooftops about it.)