All entries for Wednesday 14 May 2008

May 14, 2008

Online maps feature idea

Writing about web page http://maps.google.com

A few weeks ago, Steve noted that the Google imagery for these parts had been updated, as has the Microsoft Live Maps imagery. This gave me an idea: if I were Google or Microsoft, I’d retain the older data, and add a new feature to their mapping services; look back in time. So for any given view of a town or city, you’d be able to click a rewind button and see as many earlier versions of the same view as the provider has got stored. It’d be expensive on disk space, of course, but disk space is getting cheaper faster than planes are flying around taking photos.

In the short-term, this would only be mildly interesting, allowing you to see the buildings and other changes that have arisen in the last year or so. But if you take a longer view, and think about collecting the imagery for decades, it would be fascinating. There’s an aerial photo of the Warwick campus in Scarman House taken in 1990 (it’s on the first floor at the start of the walkway to the bedrooms if you happen to be passing). The difference between that photo and today’s campus is remarkable, and collecting the data to do similar comparisons for any big conurbation in another ten or twenty years would be a hugely valuable and civically-minded thing to do. I’ll even waive my royalties on the idea.


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