Google Earth CTO Michael Jones gave a lunchtime presentation at the University of California San Diego on GIS day on November 16, and now the 82-minute video has been posted to the web (151MB, mp4). There are some big ideas contained in this talk, as well as some intriguing hints of things to come in Google Earth.
The first 19 minutes are a tour of Google Earth, so skip those if you’ve used the application before. But then the talk gets interesting. One thing that Jones articulates very well here is the purpose of Google Earth; it’s worth stating verbatim: The mission of Google Earth is “not to show geographical information but to show the world information geographically.”
Listening to Jones, you do indeed get the sense that what he’s talking about is a lot broader than traditional GIS. He sees Google Earth as a tool, but turns that observation into a near-philosophical insight based on the ideas of the Dutchman and Economics Nobel prize winner Tjalling Koopmans. (Geeking with Greg has more quotes from this part. It’s worth watching the video to catch the nuances of these insights.)
(And you get to know some interesting things about Jones. He’s helped build the world’s highest resolution landscape camera. He likes to collect first editions of technical manuals. And he’ll make throwaway lines about quaternion inversion matrices, so one suspects he is a bit of a genius.)
During question time, he says some things that I believe are news:
“In a few weeks, you’ll see that the Google webcrawler will have found all the KML files in the world and set them on Google Earth.” (at 50:30 mins.) That hasn’t happened yet, so we can expect this any minute now:-) He also mentions Google Base as a way self-published data will be able to finds its way to Google Earth.
He also shows off a tool that he calls a time browser, and uses it to “scroll” through a dataset of place markers according to their time stamps, so that they are displayed in chronological order. I don’t believe that’s in the current publicly available beta.
More speculatively, he also said that it would be nice if oceans could be rendered in 3D as well, thus opening up Google Earth to sub-ocean mapping (at 54:00). Finally, he mentioned that Google Earth’s database gets rebuilt every month, and that this is when new data tends to get added. They have far more data than they show, apparently, but much more will come online in the next six months, Jones said.