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Earth to Google_ Satellite images on your screen


Google Earth (GE) is a development of Google's virtual globe software, which the satellite photos, aerial photography and GIS arranged in a three-dimensional model of the Earth. Google Earth in 2005, introduced to the world, is "PC World Magazine" named in 2005 one of the 100 best new products. Users can download to their computer via a client on the software, free access to worldwide high-resolution satellite images. Google Earth is divided into Free and Pro versions.

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									Earth to Google: Satellite
images on your screen
Start on your Windows-based computer,                system that runs on standard PCs and
click on an icon of the globe, and you im-           commodity servers. It is also easy to use,
mediately whisk yourself into space view-            allowing anyone to manipulate a rich map
ing our planet Earth. Then type in an ad-            of the Earth composed of imagery and             Also available are extra features such as data
dress or location. The planet starts moving          feature information.                             annotation, as on this image of the Lincoln
and you move closer and closer to the                     Google Earth comes in three ver-            Memorial in Washington, D.C.
spot you chose. The next thing you know              sions. One is a simple free download; the
you are viewing it from 1,000 ft up.                 second costs $20 a year; and the third,          place—in different images a single pixel
      This in a nutshell is the software             professional version is $400 a year. If you      could cover an area of 1 km2 or as little as
known as Google Earth. The new satellite             are anything like me or my colleagues,           6 in2. At the lower resolution, large geo-
imagery-based mapping product combines               you will spend countless hours searching         graphic features such as mountains and
3D buildings and terrain with mapping ca-            the Earth and finding yourself above any         lakes are visible. At the highest resolution,
pabilities and Google’s well-known search            desired location. It is quite entertaining,      detailed features of the Earth or man-
engine. It enables users to fly from space           educational, and fun.                            made items such as buildings and cars
to street-level views to find geographic in-                                                          can be seen. The zoom feature provides
formation and explore places around the                        Google Earth:                          an indicator that shows when the maxi-
world. It came from Google’s acquisition,                  Capabilities and features                  mum resolution is reached.
late last year, of Keyhole, a pioneer in the             The images in Google Earth have been            •Fly-to Box. To get started in Google
production of 3D digital images.                         taken from cameras mounted on planes         Earth, you must choose a location to view.
      Keyhole was the first company to de-               and satellites. With its purchase of Key-    The Fly-to Box feature lets you type in a
liver a 3D digital model of the entire Earth             hole, Google acquired established rela-      specific place, such as an address, state, or
via the Internet. Its ground-breaking tech-              tionships with a variety of commercial       intersection. The software literally flies
nology EarthStream blended advanced                      providers of aerial and satellite imagery.   you right to that point. This is basically
3D graphics and network streaming inno-                  The image database ranges from several       the search mechanism that finds locations
vations to produce a high-performance                    months to a few years old and is refreshed   on a map or provides directions.
                                                                              periodically. There        •Tilt, zoom, and rotate. This feature lets
After you click on the Google Earth icon, this screen viewing the Earth       are no real-time im-    you manipulate what you are seeing on
from space is the start of using the application.                             ages available—above    the globe. There is a toggle switch that
                                                                              a mountainous re-       can move you close in to the image or far-
                                                                              gion, for example,      ther away (moving the wheel on a mouse
                                                                              you might go in-        can also do this). In the same user inter-
                                                                              stantly from com-       face as the toggle are two circular arrows,
                                                                              pletely leafy vegeta-   one pointing left and the other right.
                                                                              tion to snow-covered    These are used to rotate the image, either
                                                                              terrain. Also, if you   clockwise or counterclockwise. There are
                                                                              are looking for a       also four straight arrows that enable you
                                                                              newly built home,       to move the image up, down, right, or
                                                                              building, or shop-      left, as if on a flat map. And the tilt feature
                                                                              ping mall, it might     lets you tilt the entire image for a 3D ef-
                                                                              not be there yet, or    fect. The degree of tilt depends on how
                                                                              may have been under     far you press the toggle switch.
                                                                              construction when          •Search for business. One application for
                                                                              the images were         Google Earth is to find business locations.
                                                                              taken.                  An area on the user interface allows you to
                                                                                 •Resolution. This    keep track of the locations you are com-
                                                                              varies from place to    monly seeking. Details about these places

can be accessed via the Google Local tool.
This also lets you access the information in
the traditional Google search tool format.
   •Virtual Play Button. The Virtual Play
Button is a fun feature. Press it and you
will fly, as if in a helicopter, from one cho-
sen location to another. Moving over the
terrain, you can slow down or go faster
until you reach your destination.
   Does this have any redeeming value, or
is it just for fun? Right now I would say it
is mostly for fun; however, other applica-
tion developers could certainly license
this technology and incorporate it into
their simulations or visual applications.
   •3D Buildings. In the tilt mode, Google
Earth can create the impression of a full
3D perspective on a given location. It does
so by incorporating detailed modeling in-
formation for buildings or structures in         By asking for Kennedy Space Center in Florida, you fly to an image of the Vehicle Assembly Building
38 U.S. cities. By tilting to the correct an-    and the road to the two Shuttle launch pads.
gle, you can see a city’s skyline.
   •Placemarks. This handy feature lets          load the software on a Windows-based                  gan to build as word spread around cam-
you save the locations you choose and            system (Windows 98/ME, 2000, or XP).                  pus. Page and Brin continued working to
store them in the user interface, in “My         It should be based on a Pentium PIII with             perfect their technology through the first
Places.” One nice aspect of Placemarks is        a minimum of 500 MHz. You need a min-                 half of 1998. Following a path that would
its ability to call up any of these specific     imum of 128 MB of RAM, 200 MB of                      become a key tenet of the Google way,
places at a later time. In addition, a sim-      hard disk space, and a 3D-capable video               they bought a terabyte of disks at bargain
ple click of the mouse lets you fly be-          card with 16 MB of VRAM.                              prices and built their own computer
tween the locations you have saved.                                                                    housings in Page’s dorm room, which be-
   •Layers. Layers are different objects that             Google: The company                          came Google’s first data center.
can be added onto an image and are               Google was founded by two students from                     Meanwhile, Brin set up a business of-
among the most powerful features of              Stanford University. In January of 1996,              fice, and the two began calling on poten-
Google Earth. You can choose among               Larry Page and Sergey Brin had begun                  tial partners who might want to license a
dozens, including streets, schools, rail-        collaborating on a search engine called               search technology better than any then
roads, stadiums, national parks, borders,        BackRub, named for
and other geographical features. These           its unique ability to Nature views, such as this one of Niagara Falls, not only demonstrate the
layers are streamed along with the map-          analyze the “back power of nature, but also show buildings, roads, and even automobiles.
ping data so that you add them only once.        links” pointing to a
They also move with the image. For ex-           given Web site. They
ample, if you are moving along the Inter-        took on the task of
state highway image, as you traverse the         creating a new kind
map the highway is still highlighted and         of server environment
outlined. By using Placemarks, individual        that used low-end PCs
users can create their own layers and then       instead of big, expen-
share them in a community Web site, at           sive machines.
Keyhole BBS [http://bbs.keyhole.com].                 A year later, their
   •Measure tools. These are tools that al-      unique approach to
low you to draw a line (using the mouse)         link analysis had
and get specific details on the distance         earned BackRub a
along that line. This is quite useful and        growing reputation.
fun to use.                                      Buzz about the new
       To run Google Earth you can down-         search technology be-

                                                                                                         AEROSPACE AMERICA/NOVEMBER 2005           19
                                                                                                                Google Earth has opened the imaging
                                                                                                                world to ordinary people. Downloading
                                                                                                                the free version can provide hours of en-
                                                                                                                tertainment and education. The real value
                                                                                                                of this technology, though, can be found
                                                                                                                in the professional version by which other
                                                                                                                application developers (or those individ-
                                                                                                                uals) can incorporate geographic imagery
                                                                                                                to specific applications. On the fun side,
                                                                                                                it is quite remarkable to check out Paris,
                                                                                                                Niagara Falls, Yosemite, Grand Canyon,
                                                                                                                or even your local golf course. Remem-
                                                                                                                ber, this is version 1 for Google; it will
                                                                                                                only get better.
                                                                                                                      Future versions will include more 3D
                                                                                                                buildings, more coverage of other coun-
                                                                                                                tries, and more sophisticated layers. These
                                                                                                                can be easily incorporated by applications
The tilt function can provide a 3D perspective of buildings in addition to a life-like map of San Francisco.    developers in products that provide more
                                                                                                                realistic simulations, easier-to-read out-
available. On September 7, 1998, Google                   plications based on their technology (such            put from geographic-intensive images,
opened its door in Menlo Park, Calif. Af-                 as Google Desktop). Last October, Google              and much more. “Beam me down, Scotty”
ter a year, on September 21, 1999, the                    announced the acquisition of Keyhole.                 will have a whole new meaning.
beta label came off the Web site and                            Founded in 2001, Keyhole offered                      To get your free version, go to http://
Google was off and running.                               software that let ordinary Internet users             earth.google.com. Download the exe-
     As most of us know, Google quickly                   view geographic images collected from                 cutable, and off you go, exploring the
became the fastest growing search engine                  satellites and airplanes. The technology              Earth, and your neighborhood, as you
in the world. But it did not stop there.                  relies on a multiterabyte database of map-            never have before.             John Binder
Page and Brin continued to grow their                     ping information. This has become the                                     jbinderaero@rcn.com
search capabilities and developed new ap-                 foundation of Google Earth.                                             OnePIN: 2447-6000-4391

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