Mind & Matter


Real-time Google Earth

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Live 3D real-time webcam images applied in Google Earth. Image by Austin Abrams, Washington University in St. Louis.


Remember the time before Google Earth? It’s a bit fuzzy, isn’t it? Remember when architects and students would scan maps in atlases or order regional maps from GIS websites? What about the ability to “dive into a map” in Google Earth and view a street scene? We could only have dreamed about this tool a decade ago.

As sophisticated as Google Earth is, however, it depicts a picture set in the past. A researcher at the University of Washington in St. Louis intends to address this limitation by augmenting the program with real-time video feeds. Ph.D.-candidate Austin Abrams has developed a technology called Live3D that can replace the static facades of buildings depicted in Google Earth with image data from the Archive of Many Outdoor Scenes (AMOS). This archive is made up of live feeds from nearly 1,000 webcams located around the globe.

Although the AMOS has too little information to be comprehensive, Abrams’ project could certainly highlight the major international monuments and urban centers with real-time imagery—giving us the ability to look at parts of the earth as they really appear, rain or shine, day or night.




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About the Blogger

Blaine Brownell

thumbnail image Minnesota-based architect and author Blaine Brownell, AIA, is a self-defined materials researcher and sustainable building adviser. His "Product of the Week" emails and three volumes of Transmaterial (2006, 2008, 2010) provide designers with a steady flow of inspiration—a 21st-century Grammar of Ornament. Blaine has practiced architecture in Japan and the U.S. and has been published in more than 40 design, business, and science publications. The recipient of a Fulbright fellowship for 2006–07, he researched contemporary Japanese material innovations at the Tokyo University of Science. He currently teaches architecture and co-directs the M.S. in Sustainable Design program at the University of Minnesota. His book Matter in the Floating World was published by Princeton Architectural Press in 2011.