Friday, May 13, 2005

Capturing History: WorldWind 1.3.1

WorldWind 1.3.1 User Interface Posted by Hello

NASA released WorldWind 1.3.1 a little over a month ago and apart from its absolutely breathtaking capabilities, I am only starting to realize what the software stands for.

WorldWind is a map program. There are a number of different map servers which provide satellite images. Their detail is astounding. Hold down the right mouse button and drag your mouse. You can actually change perspectives and tilt the picture.

Other companies have gotten into the mix. Google recently launched the gSat satellite (Google just bought out Keyhole, which offers software much like WorldWind) and has also added satellite imagery to their fantastic Google Maps service ( In fact, this past April, gSat captured the entire earth in one day.

Here’s where things start to get a little trippy. Individuals were invited to go outside between 10:00am and 11:00am in their time zones and hold up signs so they could be captured in the dataset. That kind of boggles my mind because it is kind of creepy. Can you imagine children playing “Where’s Waldo” on this grand a scale?

Nobody working at Google can sit there and airbrush everything that might be considered obscene, can they? They’d have to cover the whole earth. Perhaps it’s a new advertising venue. If you were Coca-Cola, how much would you spend to have someone in charge airbrush a logo here and there, you know, on top of a building or something?

If one satellite can capture the earth’s complete rotation, the possibilities amaze me. Not only is the image quality going to steadily increase over time, but someone's going to come up with the idea of having a lot of satellites in orbit at the same time. The end result: images refreshed within minutes. I suppose the privacy concerns are paramount.

I am getting ahead of myself. But, its not every day that a piece of software makes you rethink how we structure history and restructure it, perhaps daily.

To download, please visit


Anonymous said...

So, yo, well done here. I don't think yours qualifies as a blog in the traditional sense, though. Yes, it's, but No, it's not myopic ranting and raving. You're too broad. Too interested in the world at large. Movies AND electronics? Music AND large-scale technical endeavors? Whoa. Us readers won't know how to react. -- Thanks for that, by the way. Brilliant. Very typical of you.

If, however, you're looking for a very specific focus, one that'll narrow your content and constrain your message, I've got a suggestion: Become the Obscene Sign Clearinghouse. People could come here to boast of their brazen gSat messages, and the rest of us could treat the site as a treasure map -- for humor.


Also, I was watching a Norm Chomsky lecture where he touched, in an extremly Chomsky-like fashion, on the issue of intellectual property. Webcast here,, issue raised at roughly 1:24:35, issue becomes interesting a few minutes later.

jonathan even-zohar said...

I totally agree how NASA worldwind changes possibilities to view earth and it's history. I think this NASA application needs to be expanded and may well include historical animation such as deforestation, wars, frontiers, civilisations etc. This could be agreat learning tool, just imagine!
By the way, I like your blog.

greetings from Holland

A.H. Rajani said...

actually, i forgot to even mention this... worldwind does have some animations and historical add-ons. there is one fascinating animation for the tsunami as well as others for deforestation, populatino density, wildfires.

but these features are extremely limited and there's a lot of room to advance. i foresee it not only being a teaching tool, but eventually an interface for weather and traffic data as well. it'd be kind of cool if third parties could create plugins for special interests like national parks, biking trails, scenic road trips, etc.