Virtual globe

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NASA World Wind, an open-source virtual globe with stars and advanced atmosphere & sunlight effects

A virtual globe is a 3D software model or representation of the Earth or another World. A virtual globe provides the user with the ability to freely move around in the virtual environment by changing the viewing angle and position. Compared to a conventional globe, virtual globes have the additional capability of representing many different views on the surface of the Earth. These views may be of geographical features, man-made features such as roads and buildings, or abstract representations of demographic quantities such as population.

On November 20, 1997, Microsoft released a popular offline virtual globe in the form of Encarta Virtual Globe 98, followed by Cosmi's 3D World Atlas in 1999. The first widely publicized online virtual globes were NASA World Wind (released in mid-2004) and Google Earth (mid-2005).

Types[edit]

Virtual globes may be used for study or navigation (by connecting to a GPS device) and their design varies considerably according to their purpose. Those wishing to portray a visually accurate representation of the Earth often use satellite image servers and are capable not only of rotation but also zooming and sometimes horizon tilting. Very often such virtual globes aim to provide as true a representation of the World as is possible with worldwide coverage up to a very detailed level. When this is the case the interface often has the option of providing simplified graphical overlays to highlight man-made features since these are not necessarily obvious from a photographic aerial view. The other issue raised by such detail available is that of security with some governments having raised concerns about the ease of access to detailed views of sensitive locations such as airports and military bases.

Another type of virtual globe exists whose aim is not the accurate representation of the planet but instead a simplified graphical depiction. Most early computerized atlases were of this type and, while displaying less detail, these simplified interfaces are still widespread since they are faster to use because of the reduced graphics content and the speed with which the user can understand the display.

List of virtual globe software[edit]

As more and more high-resolution satellite imagery and aerial photography become accessible for free, many of the latest online virtual globes are built to fetch and display these images. They include:

  • ArcGIS Explorer a lightweight client for ArcGIS Server, supports WMS and many other GIS file formats.
  • Bing Maps 3D interface runs inside Internet Explorer and Firefox, and uses NASA Blue Marble: Next Generation.
  • Bhuvan is an India-specific virtual globe.
  • Cesium, a WebGL virtual globe and map engine. Cesium is free and open-source software (Apache 2.0).
  • CitySurf Globe, fast adaptation and transfer secured data due to special data storage structure, dynamic spatial data editing on 3D client monitor, data stored in Oracle SDO or PostGIS, flexible authorization models for different user groups (LDAP and Active Directory support) also excellent quality and fast 2D map rendering.
  • driveme.in is a street view application for India.
  • Earth3D, a program that visualizes the Earth in a real-time 3D view. It uses data from NASA, USGS, the CIA and the city of Osnabrück. Earth3D is free software (GPL).
  • EarthBrowser, an Adobe Flash/AIR-based virtual globe with real-time weather forecasts, earthquakes, volcanoes, and webcams.
  • Google Earth, satellite & aerial photos dataset (including commercial DigitalGlobe images) with international road dataset, the first popular virtual globe along with NASA World Wind.
  • MapJack is a map feature covering areas in Canada, France, Latvia, Macau, Malaysia, Puerto Rico, Singapore, Sweden, Thailand, and the United States.
  • Marble, part of the KDE, with data provided by OpenStreetMap, as well as NASA Blue Marble: Next Generation and others. Marble is Free and open-source software (LGPL).
  • NASA World Wind, USGS topographic maps and several satellite and aerial image datasets, the first popular virtual globe along with Google Earth. World Wind is open-source software (NOSA).
  • NORC is a street view web service for Central and Eastern Europe.
  • OpenWebGlobe, a virtual globe SDK written in JavaScript using WebGL. OpenWebGlobe is free and open-source software (MIT).
  • osgEarth is an open-source (LGPL) C++ SDK for global terrain rendering. It can pull data from web services(WMS, WCS, TMS) as well as many GDAL supported formats.
  • Worldwide Telescope features an Earth mode with emphasis on data import/export, time-series support and a powerful Tour authoring environment.

As well as the availability of satellite imagery, online public domain factual databases such as the CIA World Factbook have been incorporated into virtual globes.

Technical info, data, and image sources[edit]

Although by default the World Wind download only comes with public domain imagery from the USGS and Landsat 7, Community members have made available high resolution imagery for New Zealand and New York, here[1] and additional countries,[2] as well as Microsoft's Virtual Earth data (for non-commercial purposes)

Google Earth, NASA World Wind and Norkart Virtual Globe save a cache of downloaded imagery to the user's hard disk, enabling them to be used offline to view previously viewed areas. However, Google Earth cannot be activated without logging into its server the first time it is used.

The Google Earth's cache size is limited to 2000 MB whereas World Wind has no limit on cache size. In Norkart Virtual Globe the disk cache can be set by the user.

In addition to downloaded images, NASA World Wind also comes with the complete 500 m Blue Marble imagery[3] and global placenames including countries, capitals, counties, cities, towns and historical references that are available from install.

World Wind is also capable of displaying MODIS imagery from the JPL Aqua and Terra satellites. An add-on[4] allows for near-real-time MODIS imagery.

Google Earth and Virtual Earth 3D are both capable of displaying many more urban areas in high-resolution thanks to their private image sources. Both companies also hire chartered flights over major cities of the U.S. to take aerial images.

Marble (KDE) is designed for use in lightweight environments without 3D hardware acceleration and is capable of not only being used as a standalone application, but also as a component in other applications, such as in a "World Clock" Plasma (KDE) and for geolocation in the photo management software digiKam.[5]

3D Weather Globe & Atlas comes with complete 1 km Blue Marble imagery,[3] 40,000 locations database, countries and time zones overlays. Application requires Internet connection only for online features: satellite cloud cover and real-time weather and forecast data.

Worldwide Telescope data support includes raster and vector types, the latter including up to 700,000 points in a single layer..

osgEarth uses a .earth XML map description to configure both web map services and local data sources. osgEarth developers are able to use ReadyMap.org free data services that hosts a 15m global basemap derived from the GLCF Landsat imagery, 90M SRTM elevation dataset derived from CGIAR SRTM, and world-wide street vector overlay from OpenStreetMap.

History[edit]

The use of virtual globe software was widely popularized by (and may have been first described in) Neal Stephenson's famous science fiction novel Snow Crash. In the metaverse in Snow Crash there is a piece of software called Earth made by the Central Intelligence Corporation. The CIC uses their virtual globe as a user interface for keeping track of all their geospatial data, including maps, architectural plans, weather data, and data from real-time satellite surveillance.

Virtual globes (along with all hypermedia and virtual reality software) are distant descendants of the Aspen Movie Map project, which pioneered the concept of using computers or minions to simulate distant physical environments (though the Movie Map's scope was limited to the city of Aspen, Colorado).

Many of the functions of virtual globes were envisioned by Buckminster Fuller who in 1962 envisioned the creation of a Geoscope that would be a giant globe connected by computers to various databases. This would be used as an educational tool to display large scale global patterns related to topics such as economics, geology, natural resource use, etc.[6]

Comparison[edit]

Today's virtual globes can support various features:

Virtual Globe Introduction year OS - Windows, Mac, Linux, Unix Program/data license Multiple datasets Guides Overlays Tools
School, Restaurant, Hotel Transport Park Street map Satellite and aerial image Weather map Topographic map Real-time traffic report GPS-integration Distance measure Drawing tools Movie maker
Google Earth 2005[7] all freeware (Basic)
proprietary(Pro)
No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Some[8] Yes Yes[9] Yes Yes Yes[10]
NASA World Wind 2004[11] Windows/all[12] open source, free domain Yes No Yes No No Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes No Yes[13]
Bing Maps 2006[14] Windows only freeware No No Yes No Yes Yes No No No No Yes Yes Yes[15]
Marble (KDE) 2006 all LGPL Yes No No No Yes: OpenStreetMap Yes Some: Shows real-time cloud images Yes No Yes Yes No No
osgEarth 2009 all LGPL Yes No No No Yes: OpenStreetMap Yes Some: Can display from OWM Yes No No Yes Yes No
Virtual Globe Introduction year OS - Windows, Mac, Linux, Unix Program/data license Multiple datasets Guides Overlays Tools
School, Restaurant, Hotel Transport Park Street map Satellite and aerial image Weather map Topographic map Real-time traffic report GPS-integration Distance measure Drawing tools Movie maker
Virtual Globe 3D Modelling Planetarium Day/night views Imagery of other planets Telescope/ Sky mode Simulators Online community user input Extensibility Wikipedia integration
3D Graphics Buildings Terrain Sea-floor Flight Simulator Sunlight Simulator
Google Earth Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes[16] Yes Yes Yes Some[17] Yes
NASA World Wind Yes No[18] Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Some[19] No Yes Yes Yes[20] Yes
Bing Maps Yes Yes Yes No Yes No No No No No No No Yes[21]
Marble (KDE) No No No No No Yes Yes No No Yes Yes Yes Yes
osgEarth Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Virtual Globe 3D Modelling Planetarium Day/night views Imagery of other planets Telescope/ Sky mode Simulators Online community user input Extensibility Wikipedia integration
3D Graphics Buildings Terrain Sea-floor Flight Simulator Sunlight Simulator
Virtual Globe languages supported Hi-resolution data set areas street-level address search areas driving direction areas business listing areas hotel listing areas
Google Earth 45 different languages, see the full list Some: Australia, Belgium, Canada, China, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Spain, United Kingdom, United States Some: Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Lithuania, Netherlands, Poland, Spain, United Kingdom, United States Some: Australia, Belgium, Canada, China, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, United Kingdom, United States Some: Australia, Belgium, Canada, China, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Spain, United Kingdom, United States Some: Australia, Belgium, Canada, China, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Spain, United Kingdom, United States
NASA World Wind English Some: United States, New Zealand (partially) Some: Australia, Germany, France, Japan, United States, United Kingdom[22] No No No
Bing Maps English Some: United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Italy, France, Australia, Germany Some: United States, United Kingdom, Australia Some: United States, United Kingdom, Australia[23] No No
Marble (KDE) Translated as part of KDE, which has 88 languages [24] No Yes: via Openstreetmap Yes: Worldwide via Openstreetmap No No
osgEarth English Some: hires data located on ReadyMap No No No No
Virtual Globe language support Hi-resolution data set areas street-level address search areas driving direction areas business listing areas hotel listing areas

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Add-on:ZoomIt! - World Wind Wiki". Worldwindcentral.com. Retrieved 2013-01-15. 
  2. ^ http://www.worldwindcentral.com/wiki/Add-on:OneEarth
  3. ^ a b "Blue Marble Next Generation : Feature Articles". Earthobservatory.nasa.gov. Retrieved 2013-01-15. 
  4. ^ "Add-on:OnEarth - World Wind Wiki". Worldwindcentral.com. Retrieved 2013-01-15. 
  5. ^ "OpenStreetmap "State Of The Map" presentation slides" (PDF). Edu.kde.org. 
  6. ^ Buckminster Fuller Institute. "R. Buckminster Fuller's Geoscope". Buckminster Fuller Institute. Retrieved 2009-05-23. [dead link]
  7. ^ Google Press Center: June 28, 2005 - Google announced the launch of Google Earth
  8. ^ GE offers a few historical map overlays from Rumsey collection, current topographic maps can be added as KML add-ons
  9. ^ Full GPS support is increased through having the paid versions (Plus and Pro) [1]
  10. ^ "Movie Maker is only available in Pro version". Earth.google.com. Retrieved 2013-01-15. 
  11. ^ "August 6, 2004 - World Wind 1.2 released". Worldwind.arc.nasa.gov. 2011-07-18. Retrieved 2013-01-15. 
  12. ^ original World Wind .Net released in 2004 supports Windows only, whereas the new World Wind Java SDK is multiplatform
  13. ^ Available via built-in MovieRecorder plugin, requires writing a camera script [2]
  14. ^ Microsoft PressPass: Nov. 6, 2006 - Microsoft announced availability of Virtual Earth 3D
  15. ^ "Record a 3D tour as a video". Help.live.com. 2012-11-28. Retrieved 2013-01-15. 
  16. ^ using Google Sky (fully integrated with Google Earth)
  17. ^ Google Earth can be extended with many KML add-ons
  18. ^ World Wind supports DirectX 3D polygon mesh models, but buildings can be added only as add-ons, there are no models streamed from servers.
  19. ^ WW includes SDSS imagery (stars, galaxies) that shows about 30% of visible sky.
  20. ^ Users can not only add their own data (images, terrain models, point&vector data), but also add new features through a plugin interface or even modify the program core, if they have experience.
  21. ^ Explore Wikipedia with Live Maps[dead link]
  22. ^ World Wind uses Yahoo and Virtual Earth geocoders for street-level address search
  23. ^ Driving directions are found for many other countries, but are limited to major cities and at city-level
  24. ^ [3][dead link]

External links[edit]

Misc.[edit]