Tuesday, July 28, 2009

One People Review, Google Flat Earth?

Update 12.20pm: Frank points out that its worth watching the video in HD version if you have the band width to do so.

Back in June I reviewed a visualization of mobile (cell) calls around Washington on Obama's inauguration day. The visualization above comes from the same people (One People page).

  1. By using a flat projection of the Earth instead of a virtual globe the visualization avoids problems of countries being hidden by the curve in the earth.
  2. Translucent loops are sensibly used so that many loops can be rendered on the same screen
  3. The Base map is low contrast, this muted look allows the eye to concentrate on the loops
  4. The moving timeline graph illustration at the bottom of the screen adds lots of extra information in a digestible form.
  1. The base map could be simplified further than noted in pro #3, just one single color for land and cities as bright spots would be better. I'm not even sure what the current shading represents.
  2. The moving spots on the loops to illustrate call rates doesn't really work. I suspect a better scheme would have highly transparent and yellow color loops illustrating low call rates and highly opaque and red colored loops for high call rates (with mid transparency and orange shades for mid level call rates).
  3. There is no key or scale for the graph
Flat Earth: The most important point though is the use of a flat earth. Map the Fallen makes use of loops as do some other projects in Google Earth. At the risk of being labelled a flatearther I think the ability to flatten the globe sometime would be really useful, its a major problem with using thematic maps in virtual globes. Of course, a flat earth is what Google Maps already offers but it would be handy to be able to add loops, models, have topography and be able to add tour like functionality to Google Maps.

Convergence GMaps and GEarth: IMHO Google seem to be moving away from the GEarth client towards the GEarth API, which of course integrates closely with GMaps API. So I'll probably get my wish sometime soon.


Frank Taylor said...

Richard, you should point out that the video is much better quality if you go to the YouTube site and "Watch in HD".

Also, I wouldn't say Google is moving "away from the GEarth client" so much, but they are enabling more developer features for the Plugin. So far, the GE client still serves an important purpose as a way to reach all the layers and functionality provided by the GE platform. There's still considerable functionality in the client unavailable to the plugin.

Rich Treves said...


Note added in post about HD, good point.

You're quite right that the client still has considerable uses and functionalities not available in the plugin. However, I see this list of client only features disappearing in the future and so the eventual demise of the client will come about as cloud computing is the way Google is going overall. But support for the client from Google is going to continue for a long time yet.

Unknown said...

Hi Rich,
Would our just released 3D perspective in our Maps API for Flash do the trick?

Rich Treves said...

Ooooooh! Yup, that looks like the thing. :)