Found: a new tool enabling my continued passion for exploration.
Anyway, technology aside, a commenter pointed me in the direction of Keyhole, a service recently acquired by Google. The software looked interesting enough that I booted up my older Windows PC, signed up for a Hotmail account and registered for their free trial. I think I’m going to be spending some money here, folks.
Similar to map.search.ch, Keyhole is a mapping tool that allows increasing resolution of geographical areas. With a focus on North America, many regions of the world are woefully under-represented, but for those that are, it’s amazingly wonderful.
You start out with a 3D view of the globe. Using controls to tilt, pan, and rotate, you can zoom in and out on any area. As you progress through the levels, an active server connection loads in more and more detailed satellite photos of the area you’re viewing. For many non-populated (and non-North American) parts of the globe, the resolution is pretty low. Cities are more detailed though, and the larger cities resolve details as small as 3 inches across. Vancouver only went to 2 feet, but that was enough to pick out my building (and my car!)
More than a few hours were spent jumping back and forth between Google and Keyhole, the former to map out various landmarks and the latter to spot them from above. The Statue of Liberty, the Vatican, the Collisseum, the Eiffel Tower (and its equivalent in Las Vegas), the Empire State Building (and its equivalent in Las Vegas), and so on.
I wrote about Exploration last year, so it’s no surprise Keyhole has gotten my attention. As I explored Celestia, in fact, the low-resolution surface maps of the various planets led me to wish for a program that would combine real imagery and allow you to explore the surface of the globe as easily as you could the distance between planets in Celestia; Keyhole scratches that itch nicely.
Of particular note is that Keyhole now belongs to Google. The company’s site links to a FAQ that states Google has no specific plans at the moment, merely that it fits in with the overall Google goal of making the world’s information accessible and usable.
Linking physical addresses to satellite photos would just be the tip of the iceberg, I’d expect Google to come up with something more creative than that, although there will be a hornet’s nest of privacy questions to address. How long until we start seeing Keyhole hotspots of real-time satellite coverage of an area as it passes overhead? What about daily satellite weather reports of major cities? Or even traffic reports for that matter. This will be one to watch.
Hey, these Google Ads really are targeted. I just found Image Atlas through an ad on this article. Looks to be a decent web-based equivalent to Keyhole. The resolution wasn’t quite as high in Vancouver, but it looks like it may go quite a bit higher in some areas. And you can order prints of any area. Neat.