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Google Adds Satellite Imagery to Maps 661

Ant writes "BetaNews reports that Google quietly updated its maps service late Monday to include satellite imagery, a first in the industry... Much of Google Maps remains the same - just with detailed pictures from high-tech satellites instead of standard map graphics. Maps can be dragged to view adjacent areas, which means users do not have click and wait for graphics to reload. Zooming is also instantaneous with the help of a slider placed atop the map." The resolution doesn't seem very high, but the integration is very seamless.
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Google Adds Satellite Imagery to Maps

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  • ... thats the standard for commercial imagery and, with CitiPix flyovers (non-space) it's down around 1/3 of that.

    Frankly most of what's available is only good for mapping, and that isn't that good at best. Most of the images have been jpg'd to the point that an 8x8 block is destroying what little detail is available.

    For example, 8x8 blocked JPG at 10 meters per pixel is a boatload of image data lost.

    And yes, I work with Satellite imagery.
  • by glesga_kiss ( 596639 ) on Tuesday April 05, 2005 @09:17AM (#12142842)
    Eh, no. Multimap [multimap.co.uk] had aerial imagery at least three years ago and they still do. Not satellite, but as far as the end-user is concerned, the effect is identical.
  • Bigger world (Score:3, Informative)

    by wllf ( 627835 ) * on Tuesday April 05, 2005 @09:18AM (#12142845) Homepage
    Very cool. And the world is more then just the USA in satellite view. Searching for anything outside the states does not work yet. But hey, it's a beta. Can't wait for more coverage.
  • First? (Score:5, Informative)

    by oddrune ( 102921 ) on Tuesday April 05, 2005 @09:18AM (#12142846)
    Do you mean that Google is the first in the industry to have satellite images on a map-site?
    Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten [aftenposten.no] have had this on their map-service for almost a year now. At any time in the map-search you can switch between a vector-based map and the satellite images. Very neat :)
  • Re:Erm (Score:2, Informative)

    by DeadSea ( 69598 ) * on Tuesday April 05, 2005 @09:18AM (#12142853) Homepage Journal
    I think taco was referring to first mapping site to also offer satelite photos. I haven't seen satelite photos on sites such as mapquest or yahoo maps.

    Satelite photos have been available on the internet for some time, but this certainly makes them much more convenient.

    Open Source (GPL) Java Utilities (CSV, MD5, Open Browser) [ostermiller.org]

  • by lxt ( 724570 ) on Tuesday April 05, 2005 @09:18AM (#12142856) Journal
    Here in the UK the online provider MultiMap lets you do the same thing, just with aerial photography rather than sattelite imagery (it obivously takes a lot less time to photo the UK with a plane than the US, so planes are more feasible).

    How is this really "new" - in fact, MultiMap has an even cooler feature, which uses a Java applet to overlay the photos with the map, so the area your mouse is over gets a photo superimposed over it.

    The only advantage Google has that I can see is a higher free resolution - if you want high res photos on Multimap, you have to pay.
  • Re:Example (Score:3, Informative)

    by wllf ( 627835 ) * on Tuesday April 05, 2005 @09:20AM (#12142869) Homepage
    In the upper right corner click 'satellite'. Took me a while too. ;)
  • Re:Erm (Score:2, Informative)

    by NerdHead ( 35767 ) * on Tuesday April 05, 2005 @09:21AM (#12142875)
    Mapquest used to offer satellite photos.
  • Re:Example (Score:5, Informative)

    by betelgeuse-4 ( 745816 ) on Tuesday April 05, 2005 @09:21AM (#12142879) Homepage Journal

    Look for the "Map - Satellite" in the top right corner and click Satellite.

  • Re:Erm (Score:4, Informative)

    by jrumney ( 197329 ) on Tuesday April 05, 2005 @09:22AM (#12142884)
    multimap.com has had satellite images linked into their maps of the UK for years now. Of course, it's UK only (maybe other European countries by now), so doesn't count on Slashdot, unlike Google's US only service.
  • by baker_tony ( 621742 ) on Tuesday April 05, 2005 @09:23AM (#12142893) Homepage
    > but as far as the end-user is concerned, the effect is identical.

    No, you're wrong, the multimap is much more detailed and better looking than google's :-) (as well as being able to display the map at the same time as the image).

  • Not a first. (Score:5, Informative)

    by nberardi ( 199555 ) * on Tuesday April 05, 2005 @09:23AM (#12142894) Homepage
    This isn't a first in the industry, Microsoft did this over 5 years ago, with their Terraserver project. http://terraserver.microsoft.com/ [microsoft.com] It might have not had the same goals as Google Maps, but it definitly is the same concept.
  • by generic-man ( 33649 ) on Tuesday April 05, 2005 @09:25AM (#12142915) Homepage Journal
    Dear rest of world,

    Hi this is Google

    Our software is in beta

    Please do not criticize it until we say you can

  • Not blocking? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 05, 2005 @09:29AM (#12142952)
    I thought most of the satellite image services now put a giant white block over certain places in the US. Maybe google will add that later. Not that anyone in the world DOESN'T know what the white house and pentagon look like, but here you go anyway...

    White house:
    http://maps.google.com/maps?q=1600+Pennsylvania+Av enue,washington,+dc&t=k [google.com]

    http://maps.google.com/maps?q=2+South+Rotary+Road, Arlington,+VA&t=k [google.com]
  • by cryogenix ( 811497 ) on Tuesday April 05, 2005 @09:34AM (#12142984)
    Mapquest had arial photos for a long time that zoomed in farther than what google offers. I haven't seen them on their site in a while however.
  • Re:Erm (Score:5, Informative)

    by markov_chain ( 202465 ) on Tuesday April 05, 2005 @09:36AM (#12143003) Homepage
    Actually Mapquest used to have aerial photos. I'm not sure why they got rid of it.

    Go ahead, split hairs about aerial vs. satellite... :)
  • by ecklesweb ( 713901 ) on Tuesday April 05, 2005 @09:37AM (#12143013)
    The photos of Memphis, TN, were taken in the first half of 2003. You can tell by the state of completion of the FedEx Forum [google.com].
  • Re:First? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Crystalus ( 246502 ) on Tuesday April 05, 2005 @09:38AM (#12143018)
    Google is definitely not the first. Mapquest also had satellite imagery that you can swap in a few years back, but they seemed to have removed it.
  • Re:Not blocking? (Score:3, Informative)

    by De ( 39631 ) on Tuesday April 05, 2005 @09:38AM (#12143021)
    The US Congress is blurred out. Scroll a bit from the White House over to it. Interesting what they choose to blur and not to blur ...
  • by SomPost ( 873537 ) on Tuesday April 05, 2005 @09:51AM (#12143147) Homepage
    Here's an online map [search.ch] that does satellite images for ages, including the client-based UI using Script (Google's second here, too). Note that the satellite images are overlaid with transparent graphics indicating street names, railway tracks etc.
  • by markus_baertschi ( 259069 ) <(gro.sukram) (ta) (sukram)> on Tuesday April 05, 2005 @09:51AM (#12143149)

    The Swiss mapping site map.search.ch [search.ch] does have satellite images since a long time.

    Here a sample link map.search.ch/etoy [search.ch] of my village. Click more to zoom in !


  • Sand in Central Park (Score:5, Informative)

    by AtariAmarok ( 451306 ) on Tuesday April 05, 2005 @09:56AM (#12143186)
    "Tres cool. So what are those patches of sand in Central Park anyway?"

    Without looking, I am guessing that if the patches are vaguely fan-shaped, they are baseball/softball/etc diamonds. I've seen these on many other air photos.

  • by drudd ( 43032 ) on Tuesday April 05, 2005 @10:01AM (#12143255)
    If you look at the Chicago pictures, it shows Soldier Field under construction. Demolition began after the 2001 season, and the image looks like it's just starting the new construction, which happened in early 2002). So that gives roughly a year time frame for these pictures.

    Meigs field is also still there, and the building I live in is just beginning construction (it was finished in late 2003 I believe).

  • by raehl ( 609729 ) <raehl311@yahoo. c o m> on Tuesday April 05, 2005 @10:03AM (#12143286) Homepage
    Mapquest (I'm 90% sure, could have been something else I suppose) used to offer satelite imagry as well - much the same way google does now, just click on the Satelite button and get an image instead of a map. This was years ago.

    So, no, not new.
  • TerraServer (Score:2, Informative)

    by methano ( 519830 ) on Tuesday April 05, 2005 @10:12AM (#12143379)
    This is way cool. You can get better (higher resolution) maps of some regions with TerraServer (http://terraserver-usa.com [terraserver-usa.com]) but the navigation is nowhere near as much fun as with Google maps.
  • Re:First? (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 05, 2005 @10:13AM (#12143395)

    Haven't you heard? If Google does it, then it's automatically new and innovative. If you point out other organisations that have done the same thing for years, you are called a troll. Labels? Eudora in the 90s. "AJAX"? Remote scripting used with Netscape 2 onwards. 1GB free webmail? GMX.

  • by mosschops ( 413617 ) on Tuesday April 05, 2005 @10:14AM (#12143405)
    Wavelets sound neat but I don't think browsers can read wavlet encoded images. I think jpeg uses something else.

    The browser doesn't need to understand the wavelet format directly, it's fed image sections after they've been re-encoded in a suitable format (JPEG usually). GetMapping deals with the image in 250x250-pixel blocks on the browser side. They're extracted from a master ECW and converted to JPG images on the server side, then streamed back to a set position in the browser. The source URL for each tile includes the tile position and resolution, and tiling the images returned gives the same overview effect you get at Google. They still use JavaScript to manage the user panning and zooming (I can't find the deep URL for the viewer on their site that does it as well as I remember).

    Even if you store every resolution you need, you are only increasing the storage requirements by a factor of 5 or so.

    If you've a fixed number of zoom steps (15 on Google?) and oodles of disk space (like Google!) it will definitely make more sense to do it like you suggest, returning pre-processed files with no extraction/re-encoding overhead.
  • Re:Erm (Score:2, Informative)

    by starrsoft ( 745524 ) on Tuesday April 05, 2005 @10:20AM (#12143462) Homepage
    "Actually Mapquest used to have aerial photos. I'm not sure why they got rid of it.

    Go ahead, split hairs about aerial vs. satellite... :)"

    Keyhole has aerial mixed (seamlessly) in with satellite. In urban areas the resolution improves dramatically because of the aerial photos. I live near DC and can see the bird house in our front lawn.

  • photo sources (Score:2, Informative)

    by wfmcwalter ( 124904 ) on Tuesday April 05, 2005 @10:22AM (#12143477) Homepage
    The images appear to come from two sources. Non-urban US areas are NASA Landsat-7 images (which, as works of the US Federal government) as public domain. Some urban areas (I looked at Mountain View, CA) are USGS aerial photography montages. Again, as works of the US Federal government, these are public domain too (and available at higher resolutions in WorldWind). Google can only claim copyright over something when they've made a non-trivial contribution toward it (republishing isn't enough). The landsat images have been well montaged and registered, I think by Keyhole (that's difficult to do so well, requiring technique and skill, so that's probably copyrightable). As far as I know, the USGS photos are montaged, registered and adjusted by the USGS, so quite what Google think they've contributed to that is unclear.
  • by cniemira ( 558347 ) <siege@siege.org> on Tuesday April 05, 2005 @10:28AM (#12143523) Homepage
    At least in my area.

    Looking around my home, I don't see any signs of a large bridge construction project which began last fall. If the images were taken less than, oh, five months ago, certain buildings would be gone, land would be cleared, etc...

    Not only are they not the first to do this, the images aren't even very current.

  • Re:Erm (Score:5, Informative)

    by antdude ( 79039 ) on Tuesday April 05, 2005 @11:00AM (#12143822) Homepage Journal
    IIRC, MapQuest said it was about the cost when I e-mailed MapQuest about it a few years ago.
  • Re:wow... (Score:4, Informative)

    by KillerDeathRobot ( 818062 ) on Tuesday April 05, 2005 @11:18AM (#12143981) Homepage
    If you had actually looked at the map in satellite view, you know, like this whole story is about, you'd see that the rest of the world is actually included now (only in satellite view). Your joke might have been funny if it weren't for the fact that it was made about a hundred times when the map service first came out and it was actually true that Google's map only showed the US.
  • First in Industry? (Score:3, Informative)

    by bokmann ( 323771 ) on Tuesday April 05, 2005 @11:21AM (#12144007) Homepage
    Mapquest had this about 3 years ago... I had zoomed into my office and could actually identify my car in the parking lot. I have a great image of Washington D.C. from mapquest too, with the Washington Monument casting a shadow like a big sundial.
  • Imagery sources (Score:3, Informative)

    by tjp ( 264994 ) on Tuesday April 05, 2005 @11:23AM (#12144019)
    MapQuest was supplied with imagery by GlobeXplorer [globexplorer.com]. Both Keyhole (hence Google) and GlobeXplorer use a mix of public and private sources, so some of what you see on one service is also on the other. For example, many states have started taking their own aerial photos, which are made available online. I live in NY, and Google shows me the same image of my house that I can get more easily from NYSGIS [state.ny.us] (at 1 foot resolution, too, whereas Google only goes down to 1 meter). GlobeXplorer, however, has 6 inch resolution imagery for my area (which was in turn acquired from AirPhotoUSA [airphotousa.com], I believe), so they show that instead. In general, different imagery providers will have different groups of datasets, some of which overlap, so some areas will have the same imagery and some will not.
  • Re:Erm (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 05, 2005 @11:24AM (#12144029)
    Area 51, in the most literal sense, is a block of land 6 miles north-to-south by 10 miles east-to-west, bordered by the Nellis Bombing and Gunnery Range on the northwest, north, east, and south, and by the Nevada Test Site on the southwest. The designation, "Area 51," appears on the peripheral portion of Nevada Test Site maps in the 1950s and 1960s. Area 51 is bounded, approximately, by longitude 115s45' and 115s56', and latitude and 36s12.5 and 37s17.5'. (Actual boundaries are in the township/range system.)

    -- randomly google-raped from ufomind.com
  • Re:Erm (Score:3, Informative)

    by CodeMonkey4Hire ( 773870 ) on Tuesday April 05, 2005 @11:31AM (#12144086)
    Actually, the "satellite" images that Google is using for city-level viewing are aerial [ortho-]photos. And even though they are watermarked with 2005 Google all over, they are actually several years old (at least in Wake Co., NC. - they appear to be 2002). Like someone else posted, they appear to be the same photos that have been available elsewhere, like terraserver [terraserver.com]. And yes, MapQuest used to have this. It pissed me off when they took it off. But now I have GMaps and they are so much sweeeter anyways.

    Oh, and in case it sounds like I could care less about this, thanks Google for adding satellite/aerial photos/topology(like the ocean depths) to your maps.

    P.S. - I zoomed in on Bermuda [google.com] in the satellite but couldn't find it on the worresponding map. Does anyone know why? Is the map incomplete or out of alignment with the satellite/aerials?
  • Re:Goolge Watermarks (Score:5, Informative)

    by DaoudaW ( 533025 ) on Tuesday April 05, 2005 @11:39AM (#12144159)
    these look like they are straight off of TerraServer

    The Google images are not straight off of TerraServer. Actually to even say that perpetuates a misnomer. TerraServer is not a source of imagery. It simply serves public-domain USGS images which were created using our tax dollars. I'm not complaining, they are serving the public interest, but I'd be upset if they started putting watermarks on them or claiming copyright.

    The Google images come from DigitalGlobe's QuickBird satellite. This is a private, for-profit corporation which raised enough money to put up their own satellite and start taking pictures which they are now selling on the open-market. I'm sure that their contract with Google necessitates the watermarks. Fair enough.
  • by blorg ( 726186 ) on Tuesday April 05, 2005 @11:53AM (#12144296)
    Non-US territory is not included in Google maps AFAIK, although they seem to have wider satellite coverage, in particular of Latin (North) America - I think they are getting the data from different sources. You can zoom in to varying degrees (not much in Europe, but pretty far in Mexico, Cuba, etc and even more in Bermuda.)

    Canada is the exception, Google now considering it basically part of the US and so providing maps ;-)
  • by Spy Hunter ( 317220 ) on Tuesday April 05, 2005 @12:33PM (#12144679) Journal
    It doesn't make sense to store the data in a complex format to reduce disk space requirements. It just doean't scale. You don't need "oodles" of disk space either; in fact holding every zoom level (assuming power-of-two zoom levels, which is what everybody uses including Google) only requires 1/3 more space than holding the highest zoom level by itself (not 2 or 5 times more space as was speculated earlier). OTOH producing the images on the fly and encoding them to JPEGs on every request would require a beefy server, or server farm if you're talking about decent amounts of traffic. And it would still crumble under unexpected heavy loads. Better to buy 1/3 more hard drives and not worry about on-the-fly image processing.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 05, 2005 @01:45PM (#12145399)
    I can imagine taking some very high resolution artwork and displaying it using this technology. I can zoom in to the max resolution or your can scroll around forever.

    Anybody have any software that would take a large image file and apply a google-map-like interface to it? The software should be something as simple as:

    1. Resize the image to various resolutions

    2. Break the images into 200x200 pixel chunks at each resolution and save those chunks as individual image files

    3. Put a javascript interface on

    Sounds like you should check out this GPL project: http:iipimage.sourceforge.net [sourceforge.net]

    They have a server than splits up the image into tiles for you and a nice javascript client. There are some nice demo's with super-large images.
  • Zoom Annoyance (Score:3, Informative)

    by SeanDuggan ( 732224 ) on Tuesday April 05, 2005 @01:50PM (#12145447) Homepage Journal
    When typing in an address, there is a default zoom level (3, to give it an arbitrary marker). Trying a few locations in my area, that default level has no satellite data. It would be nice of them to decrease the zoom unti an actual viewable area is displayed. For example, this random location in Newark, OH [google.com] automatically comes up as "does not have imagery for this zoom level." If they checked to see if there were imagery at that level and eased back on the zoom until there was imagery, it would be an improvement. (Well, technically speaking... Newark is not the prettiest place.)
  • Re:Erm (Score:3, Informative)

    by anethema ( 99553 ) on Tuesday April 05, 2005 @01:57PM (#12145537) Homepage
    You can center it on lat/long very easily. It uses the d.ddd format in the url.

    For example...this is my friend's house..

    http://maps.google.ca/maps?q=kelowna,bc&ll=49.9377 32,-119.461716&spn=0.007693,0.010579&t=k&hl=en [google.ca]

    Notice the &ll=49.937732,-119.461716 ? That is your lat/long.

    You control zoom wiht the &spn but you cant go down all the way by entering in the url which sucks. At least i havent figured out how.

  • Re:Erm (Score:3, Informative)

    by Kymermosst ( 33885 ) on Tuesday April 05, 2005 @02:04PM (#12145599) Journal
    I don't normally reply to myself, but what the hell... I've thought more about it.

    I'll blow any conspiracy theory with a counterexample

    Of course, the White House and Capitol really are obscured, but it just proves that our elected representatives are paranoid. The DoD is obviously not scared of a few satellite photos. The big wigs there are probably thinking something along the lines of "you think that's cool? You should see our imagery!"

    The reality of the situation is, they probably don't want to reveal the locations of guards and air defense artillery emplacements.

    I'm not sure whether the the obscuration of the imagery is mandated by law, or if Google or the imagery provider is obscuring it just to avoid potential problems.

    Too bad the imagery isn't updated often... I found a cool way to tell what time it is in D.C.:

    Sundial [google.com] :)
  • by zmarties ( 857942 ) on Tuesday April 05, 2005 @02:56PM (#12146135)
    The obscuring is nothing new - it was widely discussed back in Dec 2003.

    See CNN [cnn.com] for good coverage of the issue.

  • Transparency (Score:3, Informative)

    by Zombie ( 8332 ) on Tuesday April 05, 2005 @05:07PM (#12147749) Homepage
    Go to mappy.com.
    Search for a big city. I've only tried Brussels.
    There's a Transparency slider at the top left.
    Mappy has had satellite maps with transparency for at least a few months. It has been truly interactive for ages. I have no idea why nobody's mentioned this, and why anybody thinks Google's US-only, slow, hardly interactive maps are any good at all.

Man is an animal that makes bargains: no other animal does this-- no dog exchanges bones with another. -- Adam Smith