Google adds contour lines to their Terrain Maps

Late last year, Google introduced terrain maps, which were 3D-looking maps of the earth — kind of a cross between flat maps and satellite imagery.

Today they’ve added contour lines to many of the maps around the world, helping to show the elevation changes in even greater detail.  Their explanation is:

Contour lines depict elevation change by connecting points of equal elevation. Where contour lines are close together, you can expect a steep slope; where they are spread out, you can expect flatter terrain. They help highlight the elevation of areas like cities or plains where shading alone doesn’t capture gradual changes in elevation.

It’s not a huge new feature, but it’s very nice nonetheless.  Check out places like Mt. Fuji or Mt. Rainier to get a see the contour lines in action.

New “Terrain” mode in Google Maps

Google Maps Terrain modeGoogle Maps has just added a very nice new feature – terrain view.   This isn’t satellite images, but rather it is map-ish terrain views.  It’s very pleasing to the eye.

To make room for this new feature, the “hybrid” button has been removed and you now are given a “Show labels” checkbox when viewing in Satellite mode.

For more information, check out the official post on the Google LatLong blog.

10 best new features in Google Earth since its release

When Google Earth was first released, there was talk about it everywhere and they were overwhelmed with downloads. Since then, it’s become more and more popular. However, I’m sure there are a lot of folks that downloaded it two years ago, checked it out a little bit, and then haven’t gone back in. Here’s what you’re missing now:

10. PhotoOverlays: In the latest release of Google Earth they now have PhotoOverlays – photos that seem to be hung in mid-air or wrapped around a sphere.

Google Earth terrain9. Improved terrain: The 3D terrain in Google Earth is the main thing that separates it from Google Maps. You can tilt down and see the mountains and valleys in beautiful 3D. There is now an option to allow you to choose the terrain quality (lower=better performance, high=more eye candy).

8. Time animations: Starting with the beta version of GE4 you could have time animations — items that update as time rolls by. This can be for long periods (spread of Avian flu) or for short periods (“Blues Brother” car jumping a drawbridge).

7. New layers: Google Earth launched with an impressive collection of build-in layers. They’ve added tons more since then. My personal favorite is the “traffic” layer, which shows current traffic speeds in metro areas (Atlanta here). Dig into the layers and see all of the great new items in there.

SpaceNavigator6. SpaceNavigator support: If you’ve not used this 3D mouse-ish tool, you have to try it. It makes Google Earth a whole new toy. Read more about this at the Google Earth Blog, or try to win one by using GEboards.

5. Flight simulator: For a while, it was fun to try to fake being a flight simulator in Google Earth by simply plugging in joystick. With the release of version 4.2, they included a hidden flight sim. Simply press [CTRL]-[ALT]-[A] (Command-Option-A on Mac) and you can choose to fly either an F16 or an SR22!

Google Earth Sky Mode4. Sky mode: Another great addition in version 4.2. By clicking the small “sky mode” button in Google Earth, you’ll be taken up to space and be shown the area exactly above where you were on the earth. You can browse, pan and zoom just as you would in earth mode, including support for the SpaceNavigator.

3. Flash support: Google Earth now supports Flash animations inside of the description bubbles (Windows only, though). This has allowed for obvious things such as embedding YouTube videos, but also for less-obvious things such as creating Flash-based forms to allow for an in-Earth message board.

Google Earth - 3D Buildings - Denver, Colorado2. 3D textures: When Google Earth first came out, people were amazed by the 3D buildings you could fly around. Problem was, they were all gray – solid, boring, gray. Since they, Google has built support for textures on the outside of buildings and the result is some cool looking cities. Denver, Colorado is probably the best example (it’s the home of SketchUp, the authoring tool for 3D models in Google Earth), so check it out.

1. Tons more imagery: Tons. Terabytes worth. Google has put out about eight huge imagery updates since they first released Google Earth, and each one has added thousands of square miles of fresh, higher quality images. Go check out your house again and you’ll probably find that it looks much better now than it did a few years ago.

There you go. 10 good reasons to go get the latest version of Google Earth and waste some time. If you’re looking for more fun stuff in Google Earth, go check out the huge KML file collection at Google Earth Hacks.

[ digg this article ]

Image and terrain update for Google Earth

A bunch of new image and terrain data has been added to Google Earth today. Rather than tell us exactly what’s been added, Google’s decided to tease us. Here is what they’re saying has been updated:

  • Two states known for their majestic peaks have gotten an upgrade.
    • Colorado (KML) and Nevada (KML)
  • I can now see where my favorite maple syrup is made.
    • Vermont (KML)
  • Certain Florida beaches (and 1 mountain) are looking much improved.
    • Possibly Ft. Lauderdale (KML). The “mountain” refers to Space Mountain at Disney World (KML)
  • Try counting the warthogs in the Boneyard.
    • “The Boneyard” is an aircraft storage facility in Tucson, AZ, next to Davis-Monthan AFB (KML)
  • Peek inside the home of the Brew Crew.
    • Miller Park, home of the Milwaukee Brewers, is shown with its retractable roof partially open, allowing a “peek inside” (KML)
  • You can read the Skin’s logo painted on their field.
    • FedEx field (and much of Washington DC) is improved (KML)
  • An historic state capitol building is now in high res.
    • Frankfort, Kentucky (KML)
  • This city was named after the Native American name of a nearby mountain, “Tacobet.”
    • Tacoma, WA (KML), with the mountain in question being Mt. Rainier (KML)
  • A “far away” city that played a key role in trans-Saharan trade can now be seen close up.
    • Tombouctou in Mali, Africa (KML)
  • The town where Jane Austen spent her final years is much clearer.
    • Winchester, Hampshire, UK (KML)
  • The topic of Vincent van Gogh’s Cafe Terrace at Night is now bright as day.
    • It was called Café Terrace, now known as Café van Gogh (KML)
  • Take a look at “la ville noir,” where Cointreau was invented.
    • Angers, France (KML)
  • Only a third of this country’s land is arable, but you can now view the entire country in high res.
  • From 1880 to 1884 this German city was home to the world’s tallest building.
    • Answer: The Cologne Cathedral (KML)
  • Rockets may be used to disrupt rain clouds over this city next summer.
    • Beijing, China — For the 2008 Summer Olympics (KML)
  • This country received an impressive terrain update, you might call it Lord of the Terrain.
    • New Zealand (KML)

They’ll be releasing full details in a few days, but they want their users (like you) to try to figure it out first. We’re not 100% sure about all of these, so let us know if you think any are wrong.

Also, people have been reporting other areas that appear to have been updated. So far those include:

  • Moscow and the Virgin Islands (via Google Earth Blog)
  • Ottawa, Ontario
  • Maracaibo, Venezuela
  • Bardejov in Slovakia
  • Slovak-Hungarian border south of Roznava
  • a long strip in northern Poland, from Jastrzebia Góra to Laskowice
  • Various areas in France (via Virtual Globetrotting)
  • Clermont-Ferrand, France
  • Strasbourg, France
  • Pembroke Pines, Florida
  • Sousse and El Jem, Tunisia
  • Padova (Italy), Chatham Island and Auckland Island
  • Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
  • North Antrim Coast, Northern Ireland and large adjacent sea area
  • Lusaka, Zambia
  • Livingstone, Zambia
  • Scarborough, UK
  • Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
  • All of England except for the Isles of Scilly
  • Areas in North Korea
  • Large portions on Melbourne, Australia
  • Shanghai and some parts of Hong Kong

If you know of others, leave a comment below and we’ll add it to the list!

(Digg this article!)

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!