Google to get imagery from new GeoEye satellite

In just over five days, GeoEye is launching a new satellite and Google will be the exclusive online source for the imagery.  Details of the agreement weren’t disclosed.

The GeoEye-1 satellite will be able to capture imagery at a suberb detail level of 41 centimeters, though Google will have to convert to 50cm quality to comply with US laws.  The satellite will be able to capture imagery equivilent to the size of New Mexico each day, though I don’t know if that will lead to larger or more frequent updates from Google.

As a cool side bonus, the Google logo is on the side of the rocket!  Check out the pics below.

Also, a brief clarification about Google’s affiliation with GeoEye was posted on Wired earlier today:

Google is interested in collecting the highest quality commercial satellite imagery available and as a symbol of this commitment has agreed to put the company logo on the first stage of the GeoEye, Inc. launch vehicle. Google Maps and Google Earth already include imagery from GeoEye. Google does not have any direct or indirect financial interest in the satellite or in GeoEye, and did not pay any fee to place its logo on the launch vehicle.

MapQuest is trying hard to hold on

Despite being far behind in features, MapQuest has been remarkably resilient in holding onto their market share.  Google Maps continues to catch up, but is still below half of the market share that MapQuest is holding.

However, MapQuest continues to try to catch back up.  Today they’ve released a new beta version of their site, and it’s certainly a step forward.  The biggest change is that they’ve put a map directly on the home page, rather than forcing you to search or get directions.  The map includes some useful layers (gas prices, traffic) and seems pretty solid.

Another nice change is the option of “copy and paste” address input.  Rather than having to put each element in a separate field (address, city, state, zip), you can drop them in a single box (just like you already could on Google, Yahoo and Microsoft).

Maybe we can chalk it up to being beta, but even the basic map usage still lags behind the others.  There are two basic functions that are missing:

  1. I can’t use the scroll wheel to zoom in and out.
  2. The zooms are hard breaks, rather than the smoother zoom used by Google and Microsoft.

As we’ve said before, it’s great to see them trying to catch back up.  Is it too little, too late?  Or will these kinds of steps be enough to hold onto their audience?  They promise many more upgrades in coming months, so we’ll see what happens.

Earthscape for iPhone reviewed

A few months back, Google Earth Blog revealed a slick new iPhone application coming called Earthscape.  The application is a Google Earth-like program that runs on your iPhone.  It costs $9.99 in the iTunes app store (get it here).

One disappointment is that it’s not yet using the accelerometer to control movement — it’s all done with finger swipes.  That being said, the interace is fairly intuitive and it works well.  The data for the US is quite sharp, although all of the non-US data it limited to 15 meter resolution, which is quite blurry.

One odd thing I found was the transition between 2D and 3D.  While browsing around, it works very much like Google Maps, with a top-down perspective.  If you want to angle your view, you have to click an icon, and you’re suddenly swooped sideways.  This also changes the interface, so you need to use different kinds of finger swipes to navigate in 3D (two fingers to pan instead of just one, one finger will tilt and rotate, etc).  I found that I had a pretty tough time moving around in 3D, but that will likely improve as I get used to it.

The application comes with three layers built in: Borders, City Names and Wikipedia Articles.  All three do exactly what they say, and they’re done well.  I like the way the city names do a quick zoom-up when it’s time for them to display.  The two big items missing are roads and a search box.  Without roads, I had a tough time finding various landmarks (my house, etc).  I still found them, but the yellow labeled roads make life much easier.  A search box would be very useful, too.  I’d expect we’ll see both of those in a future version.

All in all, it’s a very impressive little app.  If you want a great toy to show off your iPhone, this is it.  I think the $9.99 price tag is a bit steep for what it does, but the value is sure to increase as they add more features.

Here is a brief video that Earthscape produced to show off the application:

Here are a few photos I took while browsing around:

Track Fay using Google Maps

Tropical Storm Fay is going to make landfall in Florida shortly, and there are a few sites that have excellent Google Maps tracking tools.

  • IBISEYE – The best looking one I’ve seen, with some cool semi-transparent overlays
  • StormAdvisory – A fairly vanilla map, but with some solid data behind it.
  • Weather Underground – A similar look to IBISEYE.

If you know of other good sites for tracking these storms, please let us know in the comments.

(via GoogleMapsMania)

Sorry so quiet…

I’ve been guest posting for the last few days on the Google Earth Blog while Frank has been out of town, which has left me with rather little time (and content) to post on here.  I’ll be back posting again soon, but here’s what I’ve posted on GEB in case you missed it:

Potentially a mind-blowing development, but it’s still vaporware

LivePlace.com has just released a video showing a new product they’re developing called “City Space”.  Wow!

City Space is a 3D world, somewhat similar to Second Life.  Users can create any content they want, and the world is persistent for others in the future (changes you make to the world will remain there).  The “wow” factor is two-fold:

1 – The graphics are absolutely mind-blowing. They look very, very realistic.   Not only that, but the entire world is alive.  If you see a big skyscraper, every window is the portal to an office, which is fully rendered, and can even be seen through the window (depending on light, curtains, etc).  You can drop a video clip on the wall for everyone to watch, or draw a sketch with people looking on.

2 – This amazing world will work on virtually any PC, and many mobile devices.  No downloads, no plug-ins.  All of the rendering will be done server-side using the OTOY engine, so your client simply needs to stream the graphics (just like streaming a video).  I’m not sure how they can pull that off without even using a plug-in, but that mantra was repeated a few times during the video.

At this point, there is no launch date, and really no information beyond the video.  The video is absolutely amazing, but I’m anxious to get a bit more hard evidence to see how this really works.

Watch the video below — it’s well worth your time.

Various privacy complaints about StreetView in Australia

The Daily Mail has published an article today with a variety of complaints that people have aired against the new StreetView imagery in Australia.

The first one is quite interesting.  A guy lost his best friend in a boating accident, and drunk himself stupid to dull the pain.  When he got home, he collapsed on the grass and fell asleep, where Google snapped his photo.  The image has since been removed, but you can see a screencap of it here.

Others include a woman who saw her recently deceased father in front of his house (which “renews the raw loss”), and another woman that was pleased to find herself in the imagery, working hard in the garden.

StreetView is coming to Britain soon, and they’re already calling it a “gross invasion of privacy”.

Do you agree with that?  Or is it acceptable because it’s all taken from public property?

Kasatochi volcano in Alaska is erupting

Frank Taylor of the Google Earth Blog has passed along a message from John Bailey of the Alaska Volcano Observatory regarding the Kasatochi volcano, which is erupting as we speak.

According to John, the island is a bird sanctuary and two scientists were evacuated.  He has sent along a time-lapse KML of the ash, which you can download here.  According to the AVO site:

An eyewitness account from a marine vessel (in the vicinity of Kasatochi and heading in the direction of Adak) reported ash fall (particles up to pebble size), spectacular lightening and thunder, and total darkness tonight between the hours of 21:00 and 23:15 AKDT.

More imagery and information about this eruption can be found on the Kasatochi page of the AVO.

Not done with the StreetView updates…

I thought it was just Australia and Japan, but I was wrong.  According to the Google LatLong blog, a bunch of US cities have been added as well.

The LatLong blog lists a few of them, but the full list seems to be (based on a comment at Google Maps Mania):

  • Eureka, CA
  • Lancaster / Palmdale, CA
  • California Central coast cites
  • Victorville, CA
  • Colorado Springs, CO
  • El Paso, TX
  • Odessa / Midland, TX
  • Lubbock, TX
  • Amarillo, TX
  • Abilene, TX
  • Waco, TX
  • Kileen, TX
  • Corpus Christi, TX
  • Laredo, TX
  • Brownsville, TX
  • Wichita, KS
  • Shreveport, LA
  • New Orleans, LA
  • Baton Rouge, LA
  • Mobile, AL
  • Columbus, GA
  • Savannah, GA
  • Augusta, GA
  • Chattanooga, TN
  • Fayetteville, NC
  • Billings, MT

Google also says that there is “a special surprise somewhere in our US imagery”.  I have no idea what it is, but be sure to let us know if you find anything remarkable.

Also, I point you again to the GEH StreetView section to submit your interesting finds.  Have fun!

Japan is live in Streetview, too!

To go along with the Australia release that we mentioned earlier, StreetView is now available in Japan as well.

Still no official word from Google about the releases, but Google Maps Mania covers them both pretty well (list of cities, examples, etc).

Go play!