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Tag "mapping"

The busy city is one of them in recent years much overused mental images. It is busy of course and major hubs such as London even more so. The rise of mapping and visualisation since 2005 supplied a wealth of actual images and renderings illustrating the busyness of urban areas in colour and depth, not just in numbers.

Traffic is, of course, one of the foremost topics here perfectly lending itself to the subject. It is a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy though using the rush hour to illustrate the madness of the daily migration. There you are, look at how busy the busiest airport in the world is.

That is the conundrum much of the recent debate around urban area management is facing. It is revolving around the established assumptions continuously enforcing them unable to break the spell to reach beyond. If we keep looking at the numbers, lines and trailing dots not much is coming from it any longer. Even the excitement is subsiding, and insight is scarce.

Where are the real hocks to wring some insight from the pool of information? Is it visions that are lacking or the absence of a coherent urban concept to frame the question?

Video taken from the Guardian / Layers of London air traffic build up over 24 hours – video animation. “A video animation shows the layers of air traffic associated with each of London’s five major airports over a 24-hour period. Made in July last year the visualisation illustrates the buildup of more than 3,000 flights a day handled by air traffic controllers as well as more passing over the capital”.

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What do we see, when we see the world? In today’s world transcended by digital technology and flooded with representations, models and mashups the question of ‘what are we looking at?’ becomes more important. The many layers of data and visualisations in many cases start clouding the subject or in some cases appears completely detached from it and develop a dynamic of their own.

The kind of critiques are nothing new and have been heard through out the past decade. How perception is manipulated with information has been discussed for example in the book How to lie with Maps by H.J. de Blij , 1992. Here de Blij presents examples of representations and how they are used to favour certain aspects. Or also indeed The Power of Maps by Denis Wood, 1992, You are Here by Katharine Harmon, 2003 or the Atlas of Radical Cartography edited by Alexis Bhagat and Lize Mogel, 2008, to name a few of the recent cartography/mapping books of the recent years.

In a new Zone Books publication Close up at a Distance: Mapping, Technology, and Politics Laura Kurgan presents her research work and offers a theoretical discussion on the usage and employment of representations. Whilst most of the presented works have been seen around the web in the past few years, the book offers a bunch of new perspectives by bringing the series of works together and wrapping them in a theoretical discussion. Laura Kurgan is Associate Professor of Architecture at the Graduate School of Architecture, Preservation, and Planning at Columbia University, where she is Director of the Spatial Information Design Lab and Director of Visual Studies.

Whilst Lying with Maps focused heavily on the map and its technical aspect such as projection, Kurgan goes deeper and explores the fundamental relationship between the visual and a visualisation as much as the technicality of production. The projects presented n the book take the read far beyond the mere representation of physical geography. The author emphasises the power within the techniques of spatial representation and unmasks the promise of truth associated with such representations of abstract knowledge.

Million Dollar Block
Image taken from the NASA / This photo of “Earthrise” over the lunar horizon was taken by the Apollo 8 crew in December 1968, showing Earth for the first time as it appears from deep space.

The introduction to the book summarises this approach in a very nice way. Kurgan presents the series of ‘Blue Marble’ photographs released by NASA over the past 55 years and discussed the evolution from the initial ‘Earth Rise’ photograph actually taken by the astronaut on the Apollo 8 mission orbiting the moon to the 2012 version ‘Blue Marble: The Next Generation 2012’ assembled “from data collected by the Visible/Infrared Image Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on the Suomi NNP satellite in six orbits over eight hours”.

Million Dollar Block
Image taken from spatialinformationdesignlab.org / Million Dollar Block by Laura Kurgan and Spacial Information Design Lab. Map shows Government spending on incarcerate of individuals per block. Bright red represents more than 1 million $ of spending a year.

The example puts upfront the discussion and the shift from a photograph take from outer space, but still ‘as seen by the human eye’ through the lens of a camera to the ‘360-degree composite, made of data collected and assembled over time, wrapped around a wireframe sphere to produce views dynamically selectable and constantly updatable.

The second part featuring projects developed over the past 20 or so years take the reader from basic and playful but very intellectual GPS experiments to ware zones in Bosnia, Iraq and Kuwait and to inner city migration facts. Its a tour de force with a lot of depth. Definitely a book for anyone interested in the representation of spatial data.

book cover
Image taken from the MIT Press / Book cover.

Kurgan, L., 2013. Close up at a Distance: Mapping, Technology, and Politics, New York: Zone Books.

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Traditionally Geographic Information System (GIS) have been exclusively run on the Windows platform. Only very few applications run on either cross platform or exclusively on the Mac. This is part two of a review and introduction to Cartographica, a Mac based GIS software. Find part one with a general introduction HERE and the working with section HERE. This third part is looking at the mobile version for your iPhone or the iPad.

The GIS software are generally quite heavy software packages and with all them functions packed in use a fair bit of processing power. A mobile client is not quite the first choice as a platform for such an app. However, the field is where you get your data from, check on changes or record problems. Having a powerful GIS bases system right there to record the information and look up details makes your life so much easier and quite a bit more fun.

With the new quite powerful handheld devices running iOS this has become a reality and both iPad and iPhone rund GIS packages. Cartographica is offering a Cartographica Mobile app, currently at version 1.1 available now from the itunes app store.

With it you can take data with you out into the field. This is as simple as dropping files into your itunes. It will natively read shape files for example. Each file can be accessed from the mobile app, including layers.

Testing this HERE is a download link for Boris Bike station locations in London from the Guardian Datastore. The data can then be droppend into itunes and opened on the iPad.

Image by urbanTick / Accessing the data on your iPad. Here showing the Boris Bike station location around London. As a background OSM is used by default.

You can then zoom in and get to the details that are stored with each data point. This is flexible and can be adjusted to the need even out in the field. As done here an field for photo is added and for each location an Photograph can be recorded and linked in directly form the iPad.

Image by urbanTick / Accessing the data on your iPad. Here showing the Boris Bike station location around London. The details can be accessed individually.

Beside looking at the data and access it new data points can be created. There is a plus button at the bottom of the screen or by keeping your finger on the screen also will bring up a zoom functions with witch a point can be manually located. Alternatively the GPS can be used to add a point at the current location.

Image by urbanTick / Adding data directly on your iPad. The cross zoom helps definitely place a new data point.

Image by urbanTick / Adding data directly on your iPad. The pop up dialoge lets you fill in the preset fields. Those can be manipulated on the go and new ones can be added or old ones deleted.

Image by urbanTick / Adding data directly on your iPad. Using the iPad camera to add photographs of the location, or anything else.

What can’t be done on the go is any processing. The station platform of Cartographica offers a range of tools to analyse and visualise the data (see previous post HERE.) The mobile verson as of now does not include any of this. As such the mobile app goes as an addon rather than a replacement. It is intended to take the data with you check, extend or create and bring it back for analysis and further processing.

Nevertheless, Cartographica Mobile does integrate with a network and multiple users including live updating. This opens up possibility for collaborative work on the move and in the field. This is very need and helpful in many cases.

The Cartographica Mobile version is available from the itunes app store at a price of £54.99 or the equivalent of your currrency. It is available world wide. The Cartographica workstation software is available form the web store at a price of $495 and as an academic student license for only $99 for one year. This is tremendously good offer, especially if compared to some of the other packages prices.

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For a lecture and some tutorials I visited the University of Lichtenstein today talking to a group of master students at the Institute of Architecture and Planning. The input lecture did focus on the topic of mapping and the implementation of mapping as a practice but also as a methodologies. The input is closely linked to the term projects the students are working on, the mapping of the country of Lichtenstein under specific aspects.

Lichtenstein is tiny with only some 35,000 inhabitants. The small territory constantly confronts one with the questions and expressions of distinction in order to sustain itself. A constant feature is the fact that one sees beyond the country borders. Where ever you are the reference of the other side is always present rendering this here and there relationship very complex.

Flora Danica
Image taken from akpool / An old postcard from Vaduz showing the Castel on the upper left hand side.

The task for the students is to develop representations in the form of maps that summarise their individual investigations. It all starts with a walk, a stroll and unfolds between the steps tripping stones and barriers. In thesis sense quite a dynamic and explorative setting.

The input on mapping under the title Hic Sunt Dracones – Mapping, what ever. the lecture developed a rather descriptive methodology of mapping in the context of mapping as a tool, mapping as a practice and mapping as a visualisation. The focus is on topics and characteristics rather than context and specific project.

The developed approaches range from memory mapping and interview as a tool of spatial investigation to more obvious topics of distance, sound and land use and more narrative driven proposals developed around a fictional roman soldiers who lived 2000 years ago by uncovering buried layers of remains and the refolding of processes or the discover of a 49th orchid species based on environmental conditions.

Chamorchis alpina Malaxis monophyllos Flora Danica
Image taken from ebitki.com / Three of the more rare orchid species that can be found in Lichtenstein: , Chamorchis Alpina, Malaxis Monophyllos and Flora Danica .

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Mapping and maps as the contextual representation and abstraction of an environment is a very diverse, complicated and very challenging disciplin. With the current ongoing trend of spatialisation the understanding and suitable interpretation , but also creation of maps has become more important.

Martin Dodge presents together with Rob Kitchin and Chris Perkins The Map Reader: Theories of Mapping Practice and Cartographic Representation, a Wiley-Blackwell publication. With this substantial reader the editors are presenting a very comprehensive discussion of the topic in five section: Conceptualising Mapping, Technologies of Mapping, Cartographic Aesthetics and Map Design, Cognition and Cultures of Mapping and Power and Politics of Mapping.

Imhof Laufen Relief Shading
Image taken from linkingelephants / Relief shading example by Eduard Imhof showing a detail map of Laufen.

On these topics the editors brought together a very prominent list of contributors. This ranges from Bruno Latour, Eduard Imhof, David Harvey to Mei-Po Kwan, to name a few. The over fifty specially edited excerpts from key, classic articles and monographs are introduced carefully and with a lot of detail.

The editors not only introduces each section with a specific essay to introduce the topic, but also each essay or book exert. This explains where it comes from and what the wider context is of the tet to follow. Further more each essay is accomplished with references, but also a list of further reading, plus a list of publication internal links ‘see also’. This refers the reader to related chapters in the same book extending or continuing the discussion. It would have been nice to have page numbers with this section to make it more convenient for the reader to directly jump between the chapters.

Mapping is currently a dramatically fast changing field and with the introduction and extensive use of new technologies it probably even speeds up. Maps are dynamic, online, interactive and probably crowd sourced these days.

The publication acknowledges these changes without being drawn into the buzzyness of these developments, providing key readings and background information. Some of these texts are quite old. Only a dozen or so were originally written this century. However, this provides a substantial background with a lot more relevance than simply having some bibliographical references. In this publication one has the real thing the editors are referring to. Somehow it is like reading a text, plus also reading the references as they are discussed.

This makes for a tour de force of mapping, but mainly provides what the book is promising, an ‘coherent edited compendium of key scholarly writing about the changing nature of cartography over the last half century’.

The publisher offers chapter pdf’s of the book for download on their Wiley-Blackwell page.

Imhof Laufen Relief Shading
Image taken from the view from the blue house / The Map Reader Book Cover.

Dodge, M., Perkins, C. & Kitchin, R. eds., 2011. The Map Reader: Theories of Mapping Practice and Cartographic Representation, Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell.

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Traditionally Geographic Information System (GIS) have been exclusively run on the Windows platform. Only very few applications run on either cross platform or exclusively on the Mac.

The idea behind a GIS is the linking of spatial content with table data. This ins beside the geographic and geometric information an object can have any additional information associated. For example a data set contains points for all the locations of School buildings in London. Get the data from the Guardian Data Blog for a real go at it with your GIS of choice. This is a list of Latitude longitude coordinates. Every such row can now feature additional information such as the name of the school, the number of pupils and whether it is a nursery, primary, secondary school or a university. The GIS allows to distinguish between these separate entities of information and perform tasks using this additional information.

John Snow 1855 cholera outbreak
Image taken from Wikimedia / The ultimate application of GIS in practice. E. W. Gilbert’s version (1958) of John Snow’s 1855 map of the Soho cholera outbreak showing the clusters of cholera cases in the London epidemic of 1854.

For example it is possible to query the table and only display the primary schools. With a further query the primary schools can be coloured in bands of pupil numbers, and so on. GIS is very flexible in the way it can hand this sort of data and most of the systems are modular where different modules can be added and upgraded. There is usually also the option to extend on the functionality by writing individual add-ons to perform very specific tasks.

The ultimate practical application for GIS is the discovery of the cholera source in London by John Snow in 1855. THe story goes that he was able to identify one single water pump as the source of the cholera outbreak because he mapped it out spatially and realised there was a cluster around one pump that must be causing the illness.

The dominating system is the ESRI platform offering the most complete set of tools and services ranging from mapping to mobile applications. The ESRI system however is so big and versatile, that it has grown a massive beast of an application capable of doing everything at the cost of manageability and simplicity. Handling and usability is very clunky and feels very much 1995. It is just about like Microsoft Word with terrible icon bars and millions of functions, you’ll spend more time reading the helpful for individual tools than actually applying tools and functions.

Screenshot Cartographica GIS
Image taken from Cnet / Screenshot showing some of the Cartographica GIS windows.

With the location focuses move towards more spatial data and geographication of just about everything, GIS has risen to be one of the crucial applications, employed widely across disciplines and trades.
Especially recently there has been a push towards flexible GIS platforms, platform independent as well as web based. A number of these smaller applications have now grown up too and are capable of an impressive range of functions and getting very useful for spatial analysis of a good range of problems.

Cartographica is such platform and it is built exclusively for the Mac. It is one of the most up-to-date GIS’s for this platform. It was first released back in 2008 and has seen since some updates running the current version 1.2.2. The market is very competitive, but Cartographica has secured itself a niche with the platform tie.

The functionality is covering a very good range for basic spatial analysis and functions ranging from simple displaying of geographical data including a range of projection transformation to performing of basic analysis such as density or querying to the export of data in a range of formats from shape files (ESRI file standard) to web based and KML, but also graphic formats such as jpg and Illustrator.

This is polished by a intuitive handling of the software as well as extensive data manipulation, including creation of data features. There is also a range of add on features such a the option to display geographical context or background information such as Bing aerial imagery or Open Street Map.

Screenshot Cartographica GISCartographica on iPadCartographica on iPad
Image taken from Cartographica / They are offering also a brand new mobile app, running on iPhone and iPad.

This is about enough said about the functionality. If you need to have a look at a data set spatially this is what you want. Importing a table in a few clicks, project it correctly, pull in some context maps. Find the characteristics, adjust the graphics and export it as in a comprehensive way to share and communicate.

This is exactly what Cartographica does. And this is what a lot of us currently need. A comprehensive, but user friendly tool that does exactly what it says with no magic, but a lot of confidence. Of course there is a lot more to it and in two upcoming post the features and the handling is looked at in more detail. Look out for the posts on ‘Import and Handling’ and ‘Styling and Export’.

Screenshot Cartographica GIS
Image taken from kelsocartography / Screenshot showing some of the Cartographica GIS windows.

The software is available form the web store at a price of $495 and as an academic student license for only $99 for one year. This is tremendously good offer, especially if compared to some of the other packages prices.

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Together with the digital mapping the 3D modes have become very popular and are of most mapping services these days. There is the basic terrain that can be rendered in 3D, but also the buildings.

Google had from very early on 3D buildings for cities, gradually expanding on numbers and quality. They started with grey volumes and now show good quality photo mapped buildings. To get here Google tried crowd sourcing the work in different ways and were really successful. They offer an online tools, the Building Maker, for people to use together with the required data such as location, aerial imagery and images of the building or texture mapping. This was back in 2009.

SenseFly UAV
Image taken from engadget / 3D model of an urban fragment generated from areal images recorded by an SenseFy UAV.

Other companies tried different technologies. Yell Maps were one of the first to show full coverage in 3D for cities using 3D models built from satellite imagery. It is based on lidar scans that created the basic mesh for the topography and then automatically mappen on with images.

This is a very different approach to the Google model because basically the buildings and the topography are mapped out at once. It is a high res topography scan that will include the buildings. This is sort of what other companies are using now for the 3D visualisation of online maps as for example the Nokia OVI maps or the maps available on the Swedish search engine hitta.se.

lidar scan
Image taken from searchmesh / The principles of a lidar scan.

At EPFL in Lausanne a team of scientists has extended on this research and developed a drone based mapping version of a similar technology. It is however, no longer based on laser scanning of the terrain for the point mesh, but instead they are using the images themselves to create the point mesh.

The drone is something like the SenseFly. An UAV works autonomous but can be controlled in rel time and captured images re available immediately after landing. See a clip HERE and a post on Digital Urban HERE.

SenseFly UAV
Image taken from geeky-gadgets / The UAV developed by SenseFly. It comes with a 12m camera and controle software in a neat flatpack box.

The drone will cover an area multiple times taking pictures from different angles as it passes overhead. The computer will match all images calculating the differences and produce the mesh in amazing detail.

This sort of brings the 3D modeling back to the crowd where everybody can join in and produce parts of the digital environment. On a larger scale this would also provide time based imagery with links to a great archive. It could become a tool for project like the Grassroot Mapping project (discussed on uT HERE) and similar projects of public involvement and feed into the Community Remote Sensing CRS movement.

Probably the commercial version is too expensive at $10’000 and mainly focusing on faming applications and land surveys. But maybe an adapted version using an iPhone and the photostich software to merge the images.

Via sunFoundation

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The discussion around the subjectivity of mapping and the potential of subjective mapping tools becoming possible with the ever greater penetration of gadgets an locative media is gaining momentum. There are a number of project focusing on the output of individual mapping outputs specifically conditioning the visuals to the location, mood, speed or purpose.

One such interesting project is SubMap by Dániel Feles, Krisztián Gergely, Attila Bujdosó and Gáspár Hajdu at Kitchen Budapest. A collective working with technology and the environment, its mainly funded by Magyar Telecom.

SubMap 1.0
Image taken from SubMap / In the first version of SubMap we present three print maps which show the city from ‘our point of view’. We chose our homes as epicenters of these unique, spherical, perspectival distortions. Additionally we created a superimposed map centred around Kitchen Budapest where we all work together.

The SubMap project distorts the map according to the location and literally lets the map appear larger around the focal point. This can be the actual location of the person or a location that is currently being talked about.

In the subjective version they are using Foursquare to track themselves and log the location. Each check in creates a new focal point. There is a whole series of SubMaps currently at version 2.0 including a Generative sound by Kiss László.

Exhibited: Subjective Budapest Maps, Galeria Centralis, Budapest, 20/10/2010-02/12/2010

In SubMap version 2.0 they are pulling in news data from a large archive. This shifts the focus from the individual to a more collective representation of activity. As described by “Ebullition visualises and sonificates data pulled from one of the biggest news sites of Hungary, origo.hu. The work is part of the project SubMap, which deals with subjective mapping of cities and countries.
One frame is one day, and on one day many things can happen. Depending on how many times a day the name of a city or a village is mentioned on the site, the map of Hungary dynamically distorts according to that number. The sound follows and sonfies that visual outcome, creating a generative ever changing drone.”

Via jmichaelbatty on Twitter.

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The conflict between Palestina and Israel is ongoing and has occupied the region for the past century or even more. There is usually a lot of broad discussion on political issues and strategic planning. There is very little debate in the mainstream media on spatial planning and urban planning and its effects on everyday live.

This is a very crucial topic since the spatial planning aspects are tightly interlinked with the political and military planning and to a large extend represent the implementation of such strategies with all the consequences for everyday live and the general population.

Ranging from placement of settlements to the management of building regulations and the steering of infrastructure down to the building of walls and fences this practice is what effects live in the region the most. In the 2006 publication ‘City of Collision – Jerusalem and the Principles of Conflict Urbanism‘ published by Birkhaeuser the editors Philipp Misselwitz and Tim Rieneits bring together a large collection of essays examining the topic from a range of different angles offering a variety of perspectives on the entangled situation through he lens of planning and spatial organisation. The book is to some extend a precursor of the more recent ‘Atlas of Conflict‘ by Malikit Shoshan. However, the City of Collision offers a range of different perspectives and addresses topics from different angles as a series of punctuated discussions.

The publication is organised in five chapters each with five or six essays and extended with a graphical essay. The list of contributors is long and includes for example Eyal Weizman from the Goldsmith University. The project was supported by different instituions and a such is a collaboration between Berlin University of the Arts, the International Peace and Cooperation Centre, the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, Jerusalem, Department of Architecture and the ETH Zuerich, Institute dor Urban Design.

City of Collision 13
Image by Bas Princen taken from ETHZ Kees Christianse / A view into the hills of Sur Bahir.

Very interesting and informative are the maps section inserted between the chapters. In either digrams or maps a specific topic is graphically investigated and presented as a short visual essay. These sections are extremely helpful as they not only shed light on process details but also provide a comprehensive spatial context for a the text essays.

The five topic are ‘Conflict and Urban Transformation’, ‘Hosh and Apartment’, ‘Mobility and Immobility’, ‘Fear and Assertion’ and ‘Growth and Decay’. Each section is highlighting the differences between the Israeli and Palestinian side. This is graphically represented in the use of two colours blue for the Israeli sie and green for the Palestinian side.

The first section ‘Conflict and Urban Transformation’ is dedicated to the timeline of spatial changes and the changes in power and ownership. In maps the transformation from Palestine, as the British Mandate (1917), to the Oslo Accords (1993) and the Road Map (2004). These changes are presente overall, but also in detail on the level of Jerusalem and an example of a village, Sur Bahir. This is then for the rest of the graphic essays the focal area. It is an example of an Palestinian village next to an Israeli settlement.

City of Collision 13
Image taken from unverzagt / Book spread page 202/203 graphical essay ‘Mobility and Immobility’ the road system Sur Bahir / Har Homa (2005).

The second graphic essa ‘Hosh and Apartmet’ is concerned with the building type and the building process. Here the traditions and practices are presented in detail and provide inside in the completely different mechanics of proceses of change between the two side.

The third graphic essay ‘Mobility and Immobility’ is concerned with the possibilities and impossibilities of travel and movement. Again focusing on the differences between the two sides. In diagrams and maps it is shown in detail ho route choices are forced and how travel times are influenced by the strategic planning and implementation of practice by the Israeli planning authorities.

City of Collision 10
Image taken from unverzagt / Book spread page 272/273 graphical essay ‘Fear and Assertion’ the sound Sur Bahir / Har Homa (2005).

The section on ‘Fear and Assertion’ is probably the most interesting as it starts to divert from the objective map making and entering the realm of the subjective perspective and perception. Stil the essay concentrates on representing spatial aspects. There is for example a graphical depict of how the two villages Sur Bahir on the Palestinian side and Har Homa on the Israeli side see each other. Further more this section looks at the soundscape, the lighting after dark and the graffiti’s in both villages. This section manages to transmit a feeling for how live is different at a more substantial and subjective level.

The fifth section ‘Growth and Decay’ is focusing on the everyday changes of the urban landscape. Thus looking at urban transformation in terms of building stock, but also religion, wealth and ecology. Furthermore it also looks at family clans and changes in ownership as well as at decay and wast management or the absence of management.

As such the book has not lost any of its actuality since it is covering the ongoing conflict where little progress was achieved in the past ten years. Practices and mechanics are still largely the same. The discussion of course is specific to the location and puts forward vivid examples of the region, however it can reach out and provide insight for similar landscapes of conflicts from around the globe.

City of Collision book coverCity of Collision book cover
Images taken from tcdc receource centre / Book front and back cover.

Misselwitz, P. & Rieneits, T. eds., 2006. City of Collision: Jerusalem and the Principles of Conflict Urbanism, Basel: Birkhauser.

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Since the introduction of the Google Earth service in 2005 it has been the standart for online virtual 3D representation of the world geographically. The service has been hugely successful and millions of people have explored the world from the desk in their home. The service offers tremendous details via hi-resolution aerial imagery combined with layers of annotated point data. In addition the tool offers, via the KML language, the integration of individual and user generated information and data.

Several services have picked up on Googles success and offer now similar services. These are for example the Nasa World Wind, Microsoft Earth now Bing 3D maps, the UK focused yell.com 3D mapping service or the on Australia focused NearMap service. There were however also earlier virtual globes and mapping services, back then running offline. For example by Microsoft Encarta, 1997 or the 3D Word Atlas, 1998.

Google’s service still is the most popular. It runs on all platforms, which some of the others dont do and it works more or less intuitive. However there is the characteristic Google playful comic design to it which is, especially for the maps rather annoying. From fonts to placemarks the users always have to accept the content to be slightly ridiculous looking. Some of the other services clearly offer competitive features that are a lot better than the Google service can do. Yell has the amazing 3D modeling of the UK with great zooming, angle and rotation functions or NearMap offers the extremely great time slider function. Both functions Google products can do, but nowhere nearly as nice.

Image taken from OVI Maps 3D / San Francisco down town in 3D. In the foreground the Transamerica Pyramid.

Now, Nokia is entering the market of digital globes and 3D mapping by taking the Nokia OVI Maps service 3D with OVI Maps 3D. And it is a great start, the service looks very pretty and the imagery is amazing.

On the Nokia blog it is described as: “Starting with a bird’s-eye view, you can scale up and down and move around objects such as buildings and trees from the desktop, experiencing a virtual but super realistic perspective of new places.

The feature includes 20 cities today, but will expand over time. Cities in the Nordic region includes Stockholm, Oslo and Copenhagen. When visiting Copenhagen or Oslo in Ovi Maps you can also use the new road-level imagery with a detailed 360-degree panoramic view of streets that completes the experience.”

Image taken from OVI Maps 3D / San Francisco’s Transamerica Pyramid, showing street view bubbles in blue.

To use the 3D feature of te map the installation of a browser plug-in is required. With this the maps come to live and a combination of map, virtual earth and street view is accessible. The integration of the different elements currently work neatly in one direction. From the map view to the 3D view to the Street View. However going the other way can be frustrating, with the position and perspective being changed in the transition.

Nevertheless the detail and information is very good and of high quality. The best benefit is probably a different design approach using better symbols. For example the street view pops up in the 3D view as blue circles that change size as the user hovers over it with the mouse curser. Looks really neat. However, the integration of temporal aspects in both content and imagery is missing from the OVI maps and 3D. The 3D part is currently in beta and there might be quite some changes with the release of the final version.

Image taken from OVI Maps 3D / San Francisco street view at the foot of the Transamerica Pyramid, looking up.

The digital globe covers the terrain modelling across the entire world. However, currently the 3D rendering of buildings is only available for a selection of cities. This list of 20 cities will be extended continously, but so far they have not provided a schedule for this. Also the integration with the OVI API is not yet announced. Here again OVI offers great features the Google API does not. For example a geoShape that draws a circle with a given radius around a point.

Map by urbanTick for NCL / The current location of NCL twitter mappings of urban areas worldwide on the OVI map.

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