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Archive for April, 2010

Google Maps gets 3D treatment in the form of Earth View

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

This week has seen a further development in global web based mapping technology with Google’s announcement that it has augmented Google Earth into Google Maps, creating a 3D rendering of certain locations when used with a supported browser.

This update to Google Maps, called Earth View, enables users to view 3D images of a number of the world’s most iconic places. In the UK, these include the Houses of Parliament in London, Stonehenge and even the Lake District.

Go to Google Maps and click the ‘New!’ link in the top right-hand corner and then enable “Aerial Imagery” and click on “save changes”. Then select one of the listed examples, sit back and enjoy!

3D Earth View Maps

Commenting on the Google’s Lat Long blog, Google Product Manager, Peter Birch, wrote:

“Earth View offers a true three-dimensional perspective, which lets you experience mountains in full detail, 3D buildings and first-person dives beneath the ocean. The motion is fluid, and you can see the world from any viewpoint”.

Coming five years after Google Earth was launched, Earth View is available through the installation of a browser plug-in it originally issued in 2008, enabling dramatic detailing using the Google Earth fly-through interface.

Grand Canyon, as viewed with Earth View

The Grand Canyon, as viewed with Earth View in Google Maps.

San Francisco using Google Maps 3d

San Francisco is one area where 3D perspective of an urban view is available in real detail.

(Credit: screenshots by Stephen Shankland/CNET)

Microsoft is currently working on its own 3D view of the world by enhancing its Bird’s Eye perspective in Bing Maps using the Silverlight plug-in.

Brian, Earthware’s Technical Director believes, “It is great to see these premium beta features make it into the consumer site offering some real competition to Bing’s 3D maps”.

Please feel free to contact Earthware if you are looking to explore how Google Maps, or any other web based interactive mapping, can help your business.

The Beginning of the End for the Travel Brochure?

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

For the past thirty years or more, the travel industry has relied upon the trusty printed brochure to wet our appetites for holidays at home and abroad. We’ve become accustomed to the idea of thumbing through acres of paper and booking our escape to the sun based on fuzzy photographs and ‘artist’s impressions’. I wonder exactly how many holidaymakers have uttered those immortal words, “it didn’t look like that in the brochure?” during this time.

However, thanks to the massive advances made in web based mapping technology, this is all set to change. Applications such as Bing Maps World Tour, which uses Microsoft’s Silverlight technology and the Bing Maps mapping API, and the European Environment Agency’s Eye on the Earth website, which is built on the Windows Azure platform and Google Earth mapping are great examples of how the technology has revolutionised the way web users experience online mapping imagery. These mapping technologies have also paved the way for the travel sector to re-think how it can use the internet to present consumers with complete travel information in one place, e.g. embedded into an online travel map, to make finding and booking a holiday an enjoyable, easy experience.

Let’s take this one step further. Imagine popping into your local travel agent, or even sitting at home, and being able to interact with the screen to research and book your next holiday. The kind of technology that would enable you to do this was featured in the 2002 Hollywood movie, Minority Report. However, it’s no longer in the realm of science fiction thanks to the introduction of Microsoft Surface. Blend this technology with 3D street level mapping which is now available with Microsoft’s Streetside and Google’s Streetview and we’ve opened the door to a whole new perspective of what we can expect in the not too distant future.

Google streetview car95% of the UK road network has now been plotted in Google Streetview, an incredible logistical exercise on its own. You may even have seen one of the hundreds of specially rigged ‘Google Cars’ driving around capturing the imagery over the last 18 months but don’t worry, all faces and vehicle registrations have been disguised to comply with privacy laws!

This imagery means tourists and those holidaying at home can get an incredible amount of destination information, as well as being able to plan an itinerary based on the surrounding area and distances to attractions, for example, through just one application. Granted, you will only get an aerial or bird’s eye (if the mapping platform used is Microsoft’s Bing Maps) view of your holiday cottage if it’s down a private farm track (at the moment) but how about ‘walking’ around the nearest village or town? No problem.

For those of you who’d like to find out more about Bing Maps in particular, you can visit and join the Bing Maps User Group which was co-founded by Earthware’s Technical Director, Brian Norman. At one recent session, the group heard from Jim Lynn from BBC Vision, who presented “Adventures in Mapping” to give more of a taste of what we could see in the future.

Earthware’s development team is at the forefront of groundbreaking online mapping technology and new applications and is working in a number of industry sectors keen to embrace the power of interactive mapping technology to bring their business propositions to life through the internet.

Not only that, in these environmentally conscious times, it’s comforting to know this technology could help the travel industry take a huge step forward in reducing the thousands of tons of paper it uses each year.

To find out more about using Silverlight or Windows Azure technologies or the Bing Maps or Google Maps online mapping to communicate your business, please contact us.

Become Mayor of your town!

Friday, April 16th, 2010

Well, in a virtual sense at least. Foursquare is a fast-growing location-based game that allows you to ‘check-in’ to locations from your mobile device that is shared with users and your community of friends. As well as showing where people are, thanks to GPS technology, you can provide tips and advice about a specific location. Think of it in terms of a real-time version of Trip Advisor.

In offering this information, you earn ‘badges’ and when you’ve collected enough, you are considered influential enough to be given the keys to your city in the shape of a virtual ‘Mayorship’ of the location where you checked- in. This concept reflects foursquare’s slogan, “Unlocking your city.”

Microsoft recently commissioned the development of a new Application from the team at Earthware using the Silverlight Bing Maps Control so you can now see where Foursquare users are checking-in via Microsoft’s Bing Maps in real time.

image

Click on ‘Map Apps’ bottom left and you’ll see a menu which shows Foursquare Everywhere. The mapping facility within the App is seamless, enabling ultra-fast zoom functionality. As it loads, you’ll see tips from users who have tagged a location with additional information. A continually updated flow of ‘check-ins’ is presented on the left of the screen and as you zoom out to a country or global view, Foursquare check-ins are indicated as pinpoints on the map.

Checking the box “auto-center the map on new updates” allows you to watch the map fly around the world as people check in everywhere!  If you’re not seeing data on the map, chances are you’re zoomed into an area where people aren’t playing Foursquare so either move the map or zoom out. If you click on one of the pieces of data pinned to the map you’ll get a pop up with the name of the location which you can click to zoom down.

Speaking at the Where 2.0 conference in California recently, Bing Maps’ architect Blaise Agüera y Arcas demonstrated the new Foursquare Everywhere feature on the Bing Maps platform, which was a proud moment for the Earthware team. Agüera y Arcas described the service as a “mash-in” rather than a “mash-up”, with Bing Maps working as a surface on top of which different applications and services can be integrated.

“With a mash-in model like this, the interaction is much more rich and fluid than with a traditional mash-up technique, as everything is discoverable in one place,” he said.

Ensuring user privacy, Bing Maps only shows information from the Foursquare API that users have agreed to share. Users can select their own privacy settings, allowing them to decide if they want to share their location, for example. Bing Maps doesn’t store any user information provided through the Foursquare Everywhere App, as it streams data directly to the map in real time.

If you would like to find out more about map Apps, Bing Maps or Silverlight please get in touch with us.