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Thursday, 14 September 2006 02:12

Google Earth Featured Content - just the beginning

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Google has enhanced its popular satellite image delivery software, Google Earth with a "multimedia overlay" providing information about the location that the user zooms in on, but this is clearly just the first taste of what is possible.
Featured content information comes from a variety of content providers and embraces information about the geography, geology, biology of an area as well as man-made features and services. Current content providers include the United Nations Environmental Program whose overlay for Google Earth includes successive time-stamped images illustrating 100 areas of extreme environmental degradation around the world. Discovery Networks World Tour gives "travel enthusiasts and armchair tourists alike the opportunity to virtually visit major world attractions, cities, and natural wonders through Google Earth." The Turn Here city guide "features free city video guides for travel, restaurants, hotels, local events and music around the globe."

But how about this one, down the track? Imagine being able to zoom in on a global landmark, such as the Taj Mahal, and take a virtual tour of the site, from numerous angles and perspectives. Imagine that this did not require any investment to produce each particular tour, but that it could be created from digital photographs of the Taj Mahal uploaded by any Google Earth user, 'visiting' the site on Google Earth: photographs from any point taken at any time of the day, or year.

Well that's not so far fetched. At the SISGGRAPH 2006 conference in Boston in August researchers demonstrated a new photo-browsing system called Photosynth,  claimed to "enable people to combine their photos with thousands of others collected on the Internet to present a detailed 3-D model which gives viewers the sensation of smoothly gliding around the scene from every angle."
Photosynth can be previewed at https://labs.live.com/Photosynth, and the software is expected to be available for download later this year. There is just one small problem, for Google at least. Photosynth belongs to Microsoft.


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