Monday, April 28, 2008

Google Earth: Poster or Database?

The use of Google Earth for science visualization is growing, I don't think its reached anything like its true potential at the moment but one thing I notice is that my science colleagues are using it as a database rather than a poster.

Posters at the AGU conference I attended before Xmas.

When I say poster, I mean a conference poster. People put their data and , importantly , interpretation of that data on one big sheet and stand around to discuss the issues with others. A Google Earth version of this would include some data and lots of labels and highlighted areas to explain an idea. This is a preview of a project I'm working on at the moment:

Screen Shot from the BrahmaTwin project

Map Explained: What the blobs show are communities, the blob size shows population, the blob colour shows vulnerability to flooding from the Brahmaputra. The blurry map around the purple square is the large view of the whole project: I use it to show people the overall area. The purple square contains a high res sub map (another overlay) which I use to discuss interpretation: the yellow and blue blobs are areas where poor and rich live respectively, you can see that the rich occupy areas away from the river and the poor are left with flat areas close to the river that are liable to flood.

A good example of a database is Mark Mulligan's Terrascope, showing historical satellite data. Its excellent, I have made use of it elsewhere in the BrahmaTwin project.

To me the power of Google Earth is best used when presenting a kind of poster, its excellent at being a canvas on which to present the reults of interpretation as in the BrahmaTwin project. To put it another way, for authors who use GIS already, instead of printing to paper to produce a map, "print" to KML to produce a Google Earth project. I see very few examples where experts interpret data and explain it in Google Earth, most seem satisfied with producing data in a format where it can be explored with Google Earth.


AHF said...

Agreed - we're all for using GE as a poster as well as a discovery/discussion point for science data. So in a short while your conference hall photo will include a multitude of flat screen monitors for people to connect their laptop w GE etc onto.

Rich Treves said...

Ed parson's touches on the idea of outputting to KML