Details about the new 10m Terrain area in Google Earth

Frank Taylor at the Google Earth Blog has just posted a file that shows exactly which areas of the western US are now covered by the 10m 3D terrain.

As he suggests, you really need to head out there, turn your terrain detail up pretty high and enjoy the view!

Want to help model a city?

In an effort to get more cities modeled in 3D, Google has created a new category in the 3D Warehouse titled “Help Model a City“.  They’re encouraging users such as yourself to go in there and help create some of these models.  So far they have five cities listed — Ann Arbor, Michigan : Amherst, Massachusetts : Astana, Kazahstan : Brookline, Massachusetts : San Jose, California.

It seems like a good way to encourage more people to help model the buildings.  I still expect Google to create a semi-automated process to handle this (similar to how Virtual Earth does it), but in the meantime this could help get more buildings up there.

The Google Lat Long blog has more information.

Stephen Chau, product manager for Google Maps, addresses Street View privacy issues

Freakonomics has an interview with Stephen Chau, the product manager for Google Maps.  Their questions all address the new Street View feature of Map.  In the interview, Chau addresses some of the privacy concerns that have been raised.

Some snippets:

  • “At Google we take privacy very seriously. Street View only features imagery taken on public property and is not in real time. This imagery is no different from what any person can readily capture or see walking down the street.”
  • ” …we respect the fact that people may not want imagery they feel is objectionable featured on the service. We provide easily accessible tools for flagging inappropriate or sensitive imagery for review and removal.”
  • “We routinely review takedown requests and act quickly to remove objectionable imagery. “

Nothing too groundbreaking in there, but it’s a good read.  You can read the full interview here.

Factory in Malaysia is offering ad space on its roof

Kumomo, a Malaysian company that owns a large factory, is offering up ad space that would be viewable in all of the various mapping systems (once the area gets updated again).  They’ll be using a company in California, RoofAds, to do the installation.

I imagine that we’ll be seeing quite a bit of this kind of thing as time goes on.  In this case, however, there are a few other issues to consider that were raised in an article by the Natural Search Blog:

1. This is apparently the factory in Google Maps – completely obscured by smoke/clouds.  If it’s a cloud, odds are pretty good that it won’t be there next time.  However, if it’s smoke from the factory then that would likely be there every time.

2. There is a good deal of child labor that occurs in Malaysia.  You’d want to make sure that this isn’t happening at the factory where your ad would be placed.

3. The ad space will go up in November.  Why then?  I can’t imagine they know when any new satellite photos will be taken.  I guess that’s just when they’ll put up the ad, and then it’ll show in GE, GM, VE, etc — eventually.

It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out, as well as to see how many other companies try the same thing in future months.

New Google Earth gallery

Google has just released an updated version of their previously static gallery.  The Lat Long Blog explains it well — it’s just a way to highlight a half-dozen cool KML files each week.  Go check it out.

JetBlue providing Google Maps in seatback TVs

The Google Lat Long Blog just announced that JetBlue is now providing fliers with Google Maps in their “signature seatback TVs”.  On top of that, they’re asking customers to take pictures out the window during their flight, note the location with Google Maps, then send the pictures in.  The top 10 photographers will win roundtrip tickets for two to anywhere that JetBlue flies.

Having recently been on a Delta flight with a seatback TV map, I can see how cool this could be.  The Delta map was neat, but it was very static.  It would show the map in a full-US view, then in a zoom view, then some statistics, then more statistics, then back to the full-US view, etc.  Being able to control the map would have been very cool.

I’ve never used JetBlue, but I continue to hear good things about them.  Maybe I’ll have to try them for my next trip.

Transit info available in Google Earth

We mentioned yesterday that Google had created clickable transit icons in Google Maps.  Frank Taylor at the Google Earth Blog is reporting the same features are available in Google Earth, apparently for some time.  Plenty more details are available in the write-up on his blog.

Some confusion about the new AdSense feature using the Google Maps API

As I mentioned yesterday, you’ll soon be able to monetize Google Maps using built-in support for AdSense.  It’s quite slick.  However, I’ve noticed a number of blogs talking about an article about this on InfoWorld today, all of whom have a couple of key facts wrong.

First, InfoWorld says that mapplets can be monetized using this new AdSense for Maps API feature.  This is not true.  The AdSense for API coming out this month will only work on Maps mashups that you are hosting on your own sitenot for mapplets.  After the Google Developer Day, I asked a few Google employees about AdSense on mapplets and I was told that they are considering adding it at some point in the future, but not anytime soon.

The problem is that mapplets incorporate a lot of different datasets into one.  Who gets the revenue from the ads if six different sites are contributing data?  There are some issues like that for them to work out.  For the normal Maps API it’s much simpler – it’s your site, so do whatever you want with the ads.  It makes sense.

The other confusing point in the InfoWorld article talks about how those ads are displayed.  They say “When the icon is passed over, information appears in the pop-up window“.   Passed over?  No, the word they were looking for is “clicked”.

The AdSense icons will be very similar to normal icons in Google Maps, at least in behavior.  If you click on the icon the info bubble pops-up.  If you click the ad in the info bubble, the site gets paid.   There’s no “passing over” that is involved here.

I hope that helps clear this up.

Clickable transit icons in Google Maps

I forgot to mention this, but the Google Lat Long Blog just posted about it and reminded me.  Starting a few days ago, many of the transit icons (bus stops, etc) in Google Maps became clickable.  Instead of just showing you where a bus stop is, you could click on it to get exact times.

Obviously, they don’t have this in place everywhere.  They get the data “through a variety of means, including transit agencies, geo data companies, websites and maps” and they’ll undoubtedly be adding more locations over time.

The example they give is of Zurich, Switzerland.  Check it out and click on some icons.  This should be a very useful feature for people that often use public transportation, especially in an area that they’re unfamiliar with.

Microsoft unveils “instant answer” for MSN.com and Live.com

Following on the heels of both Google and Yahoo, Microsoft’s “Live” search now shows an interactive map as the top result if you search for a precise location (full story on their blog). While its noticeably later than Google or Yahoo’s implementation, I must give them credit for taking it a bit further than either of the other guys has.

On Live, when the map comes up it’s a fully interactive scrollable map. On both Google and Yahoo, it’s just a screenshot of the map. You need to click it to get to the “real” map.

Here are links to search for “1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, DC” on all three search engines (that would be the White House, if you weren’t aware):

Live.com
Google
Yahoo

This technique has been Microsoft’s mojo for years now – wait and see what the other guy does, then copy it and do it just a bit better. Sadly, it tends to work. They’ve failed miserably in search thus far, but they’re always someone to keep an eye on.