Thursday, March 31, 2011

Street View in Tours: Ancient Rome

AFAIK I was the first blogger to spot that the new GEarth tours in GE6 supported streetview. I still think this a great bit of functionality and I'm surprised I haven't seen it popping up more. Today I came across yesterday's blog post by Google about how their streetview trike has been capturing imagery of historic European sites (what a cool job that trike operator must have), really clever use of the technology but I was interested in the way they presented the streeview examples: They linked out to GMaps instances of streetview from within the blog, three examples are shown here:


Imperial Forum

View Larger Map

Palantine Hill

It works and is impressive but this form of presentation is clunky if you wanted to see the relationship between sites in which case a GEarth tour becomes the media to choose. As an experiment I've produced these three sites in a GEarth tour, it's a bit rough but I think you can see my point about how this is a better way if the geographic relationship of the three sites is important.

to play in GEarth itself Rome Street View tour

Note I used the wrong forum site.

Good Design Points:
  • You'll note that by use of annotations for Rome, and a 'reference' square I give a sense of location and scale to the viewer.
  • Use of the square allows people to memorise the locations of the three sites as it acts as a strong landmark.
  • I return to high views between sites as this allows people to follow where they're being flown to.
  • I also customised the Colosseum views and tour path (by choosing a different high view) as in its original format the tour flew through the Colosseum walls - distracting for the viewer.
  • I make explicit remarks about how the user can pause the movie to look around and also about how fast the imagery is likely to be downloading. The former is necessary to encourage active use of a tour, most people will hit play and sit back if you don't actively suggest they could do something different. The comment about imagery download will help those on slow connections who may be thinking 'its not working' as all they can see is a pixelated sludge on screen.
Technical Points:
In KML you can control turning on and off streetview, the sunlight slider and historical imagery. It would be useful to be able to do the same for 3D buildings and roads. However, by using the Tour gadget to produce GEarth in a browser (as I did) you can control these layers without needing to code anything.

I also noted that streetview imagery is low resolution until you click pause at which point it sharpens up.

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