Poagao's Journal

Absolutely Not Your Monkey

Jun 02 2007

New worldviews

Two new tools for exploring the world have become available recently as Microsoft and Google fight to see who will become known as the one to go to when you want to have a look around the planet (Yahoo’s pitiful maps don’t seem to even cover anything outside of the US, so they’re not even in the running). Microsoft’s Virtual Earth, which seems like a copy of Google Earth, now includes 3D structures, so that you can see a city’s buildings from any angle A cafe in Dalllas shown in Windows Live Viewlike a poorly rendered Duke Nuke’m-era video game (full disclosure: I usually play first-person shooters in order to explore the interesting environments rather than for the actual shooting; I’m weird that way). Cities like San Francisco and Seattle are well covered. Even Dallas has quite a bit of 3D coverage, with ordinary buildings and houses presented very nicely. The lack of trees or anything besides the buildings makes every place appear very stark, however. Perhaps that will be improved upon, but it’s still very cool.

Even cooler than this, however, Google has added street-level views to its maps site, so that you can walk around some major cities and even zoom in on cats in windows if you like (some people don’t). This, I feel, is particularly wonderful as my idea of a good time in just about any city is just walking around with my camera. I could spend hours just “walking” around these virtual places looking at the stores and houses.

My hope is that these two services will somehow be combined, or that elements of one are implemented in the other, resulting in a photorealistic and navigable 3D environment that can be expanded outwards from the handful of cities presently included. I wonder, however, if people will be able to block certain sites for security or privacy reasons, resulting in a a big billboards with “404” printed on them scattered around.

I also wonder how these services will impact “documentary” photography, i.e., pictures that simply show a place but without any other photographic merit. Won’t all of that simply become redundant and go the way of realistic paintings upon the advent of photography? This is fine with me, of course, as I don’t usually take pictures of things just to show people places. But if you can call up any street scene in the world, with you in them should it ever go real-time, what would be the point of taking such pictures on your vacation? Maybe digital cameras will become less ubiquitous in such a society, used by a few photography enthusiasts simply for “art shots” or abstracts rather than to shoot Deloris next to the quaint Taco mart. As with other art forms, when everyone has the capacity to be “special”, the art form will be forced to change. Into what is anyone’s guess.

In any case, these technological leaps are making the world more accessible to anyone with a computer, and if the new surface computer interfaces are anything to go by, sooner or later we’ll be able to be anywhere at any time. At that point, I’ll probably just want to get away from it all and won’t be able to.

So relish every time you get lost. It could be your last.

posted by Poagao at 12:29 am  


  1. […] to Poagao for pointing me in the direction of Microsoft’s Virtual Earth. I’m no great fan of […]

    Pingback by bezdomny ex patria » Blog Archive » Virtual Earth — June 3, 2007 @ 12:49 am

  2. Enjoyed your recent posts on computer technology and people. I read a while ago Bill Joy’s “Why the future doesn’t need us” on this very subject, and thought it was interesting. You might have read it already.

    Comment by Ji Village News — June 6, 2007 @ 10:57 pm

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