May 14, 2008

Online maps feature idea

Writing about web page

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.

- 3 comments by 2 or more people Not publicly viewable

  1. Steven Carpenter

    I’ll even waive my royalties on the idea.

    I wouldn’t – hindsight is a useful thing remember ;-)

    Great idea.

    15 May 2008, 11:06

  2. Steve Rumsby

    The same thought did occur to me (easy to say, when somebody else has gone public with it:-). I think it would be a brilliant resource in the future given time to build up a decent amount of history. Just imagine if now you could grab hold of a “time” slider, whizz back to the 1960s and then play it forward to see the campus growing from its birth.

    Gotta do it, Google. It is not like they don’t have the space to store it. Just chuck a few more NetApp boxes in a rack and off they go…

    15 May 2008, 11:48

  3. Michelle Ferrer

    I had a similar thought but didnt really think it through as far as them keeping all the info. I had a look at some areas in which the images on Microsoft are a lot older than those on Google. I love looking at how places change over time. I also noticed that, although in some areas on Microsoft in the aerial view the images are still fairly old, they have really up to date versions in the bird’s eye view (I love this feature). Although you’re not looking from the same viewpoint it makes it very easy to look at the same area but from a slightly different time.

    15 May 2008, 18:10

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