New Disney layer “the next best thing to being there”? Er, no.

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.)

5 thoughts on “New Disney layer “the next best thing to being there”? Er, no.”

  1. My goodness, panning Disney World? What’s next – Santa Claus? Personally I think the Disney collection is one of the best renderings of a 3D location in any of the geobrowsers today. As you say, the plugin will be a great way to add more useful features to increase the utility of 3D tours. In the meantime, the base content has to get put in place first. I think Disney and Google deserve big kudos for making it happen.

  2. Unlike Santa, Disney is real, and unlike Google, it does evil: It pushed through copyright term extensions that do real damage to the public domain. Disney gets no special dispensations on this blog just because it peddles to children.

  3. Who wants to be there anyway, however well it’s presented technically. Mawkish, banal Disneyism is doing enough damage by polluting the minds of children on a global scale, without GE giving support. There are better uses for GE.

  4. I think your Dork is showing. Sure, this Disney foray into GE fails to satisfy the GIS geeks, but I think it’s a fine product for parents to sit down with their 10-year-old and take a look around. It may fail to measure up to your standards of what qualifies as useful information, but a fine piece of modeling work is worthy of a nod in its own right. I know it’s hard to believe, but some people just want to use GE to look around.

  5. Terry – doesn’t a 10 year old get enough Disney thrust at them without doing it through GE as well? Why not take them for a tour round some 3D mountains or any of the myrial other real world features?

    This is not about “dorks” showing, but about the relentless marketing and promotion of a brand like Disne and the effect it has on children.

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