Thursday, October 30, 2008

I Can See You From The Sky!

I drive and I am good at getting lost on the roads.

Maps are made for many purposes. One of them must be to guide lost sheep like me. With a Street Directory in hand, I usually survive.

A map is a 2D representation of the features of an area of the earth. Traditionally, maps are hand drawn by cartographers, or mapmakers. Spatial information were meticulously documented, balancing accuracy, aesthetics and readability.

Ancient maps were illustrative using more pictorial representation than words. Long before we have had written words, maps were already in use. The first known map is believed to be more than 10,000 years old. Singapore maps do not date back so far but it is interesting to imagine the earlier days from the illustration on these maps.

With the advent of modern surveying technology, maps became more accurate over time. Maps were never interactive until computers came along. Now, maps are digitized.

Google maps is a free web mapping service application and its related product, Google Earth allows satellite views. This brings us to a new era of map reading which potentially promises real time information.

Google Earth provide satellite imagery of varying resolution. At its best, we can only see the top of buildings leaving out other details. Certain images are also partially covered with clouds.

Privacy concerns are obvious. Some have expressed that they do not wish to have their properties shown. Google Earth explained, "The images that Google Maps displays are no different from what can be seen by anyone who flies over or drives by a specific geographic location."

I disagree. Google Earth has made 'flying over' my house a whole lot easier now. Caution, someone may be catching the view of you sunbathing on the roof deck.

To give another dimension to map viewing, Google Maps added 'Google Street View' last year. It allows a panoramic 360°view at street level. At the moment, images can be seen in selected cities in 5 countries (USA, France, Italy, Australia and Japan).

Earlier this month, Google Maps was jetting around Singapore streets with cameras mounted on their vehicle. They were here taking pictures of landmarks, stores and hotels to be added onto 'Google Street View'. When the project is completed in a few months' time, Singapore will be the next country being featured on 'Street View'.

If you find reading 2D maps confusing, the new way for navigating is perfect for you. It will offer you a real, 3D, ground perspective of how to get to places. The next time you read maps, it will be a 'as if you're there experience.'

Now, with GPS built in digital maps, no one should get lost anymore. If you are still troubled by the fact that 'women can't read maps', your concern will soon be over.

Experience your panoramic view of the Golden Gate Bridge‎ here.

"I seldom end up where I wanted to go, but almost always end up where I need to be."
- Douglas Adams (1952 -2001) English Author

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