Thursday, November 12, 2009

Climate Change Tours: Elephants

Screenshot from Save the Elephants Climate Change Tour

Recently I reviewed the introductory GEarth tour on the Climate Change in Google Earth site. I thought it was interesting in a number of ways but thought that they had tried to do too much in a short time. I've also discussed the use of video and Google Earth on the site here.

Last Mali Desert Elephants: I've looked at some of the 'sub tours' on the same site (click elephant icon to view) and IMHO they work better than the introduction. The Mali Elephants tour is done in collaboration with Save the Elephants and describes what that charity does to support elephants in Mali and how climate change is affecting them. Here are some quick notes:

  • Quality Commentary: The voice over is professionally done.
  • Lovely Story: The narrative for the tour is very good, they tell an excellent spatial story with good photos. The photos are static rather than moving around too much which is a criticism I made of the introductory tour.
  • Sprint: At one point the tour explains that an elephant, being freed from a waterhole sprinted to be back with her family. There is a trail marking her route that they obtained through GPS and it works well in GEarth.
  • Others Minor Pro points: Nice referral screen at the end to their main web page, Pace was good, they used annotations to lead the eye to the right area on screen.
  • Unexplained Pink Areas: At one point the areas the elephants range is being discussed and pink areas appear on screen. Firstly, 100% pink is too intense, they should have reduced the opacity. Secondly, I was left confused about what the areas actually showed, it needed explicit explanation from the audio track.
  • Unreadable Labels: When showing the surface water in the area the labels cannot be read.
  • Scale: When viewing desert in Google Earth users have no way of judging distance, a scale bar with a reference in the commentary would have helped users get a sense of the huge distances the elephants are covering.
Extra Stuff: I would have liked to have seen them animate the track of the elephants so we could see them moving, animation is very engaging as a visualization tool.

But overall good work, well done Google and especially Save the Elephants!

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