Via the blog Free Geography Tools, I’ve learned about one of the coolest new applications to take advantage of the Google Maps/Earth interface. The service is called “Hey! What’s That?” and it allows users to create panoramas from any point on Earth.
Think of it this way…
You’re up on the Blue Ridge Parkway and you pull off at one of the overlooks. There’s a sign there reflecting the vista before you, with labels identifying the various peaks, etc. That’s exactly what “Hey! What’s That?” does for you. You can select from an extensive list of already available panoramas, or you can generate your own from an address or lat/long coordinate. The panoramas are 360 degrees, with a corresponding view in Google Maps. Here’s what the panorama looks like for Paris Mountain, just north of Greenville. You really need to click on the image to see it larger for it to make sense:
And this is what the corresponding Google Map looks like:
The red shaded areas are a new layer called a “visibility cloak” which shows all the locations that should be visible from that point on a clear day. Clicking on any of the points on the panorama will bring up a placemark on the map with a straight-line distance back to the vista point.
“Hey! What’s That?” goes one step further by providing this information as a KML file for Google Earth. From their ReadMe file, here’s what you see…
This Google Earth file contains several layers to show what you can see from Paris Mountain.
- The viewer position used for the calculation Visibility cloak
- Shows, in red, exactly which areas are visible from that point. Every red pixel covers about two acres. Conventionally known as the viewshed. Visibility cloak outline
- Shows the maximum extent of the cloak in every direction, or, more poetically, the horizon. The visibility cloak can take a long time to load, so we default to just having the outline visible. You may sometimes find that there is no red of the visibility cloak at the purple outline limit; this is because we use data at several different resolutions in our computations. Peaks folder
- Lists the summits that we calculate will be visible to the viewer. For a summit to make the list, its peak and some slope on either side must be visible, it must appear against the horizon, and it must appear in the gazetteer we use. (For more on these criteria, and to understand the (shown at …) parenthetical comments, see the FAQ.)
- Bearings listed are true; for magnetic bearings add 6°.
- The computed image of the horizon as seen from the viewer’s position.
Here’s a screen capture from the Google Earth file:
As you can see, the visibility cloak layer has been enabled, as has the panorama layer.
I think this is a fascinating new utility. I’m still trying to figure out ways it might be useful, but it’s certainly worth spending some time with it.
[tags]Google Earth, Google Maps, panorama, Hey! What’s That?[/tags]