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Google Earth

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Hello, my name is David Malan and I'm the instructor for Computer Science E-1: Understanding Computers and the Internet, at Harvard University's Extension School. You're watching one of our "Videos of the Week." For more such videos or information about this course, visit us on the Web at computerscience1.org. Enjoy the show. Hello, my name is Eugenia Kim. I am a teaching fellow for Computer Science E-1. This is a Video of the Week. In this particular Video of the Week, we are going to have a special speaker, David Malan, talk about a program called Google Earth. Let’s turn our attention now to, again, this topic of the Internet. And, frankly, Google Earth is just too cool not to revisit in this class. So tonight will be entirely about Google Earth, if only because it’s the coolest thing that I have wasted several hours on over the past couple of weeks. How many of you, out of curiosity, downloaded this program after last week? So, a few of you. Know that, one, the software is entirely free, which means we have the luxury of being able to play with it, with the expectation that others in the class and beyond are certainly welcome to do the same. But with that said, we've got this spinning globe here. I thought I would take us right away, as we may have done last time, to 1 Oxford Street, in Cambridge, Mass., 02138. Just a quick tutorial. At the top left of this program, if you have not used it before, is a little search box. You can type an address in there. Google is pretty good about knowing if you type "Eiffel Tower," where in the world that is. So it’s pretty good about guessing where certain popular locations are. But you can more precisely specify a U.S. address, a foreign address for most countries, a latitude and longitude, and sort of other tricks as well. I’m going to go ahead and click "Enter," after typing that in. And if nothing else, to be honest, it's perhaps the fundamentally unnecessary, daresay, gratuitous animations, that make this program so cool. As we zoom in here to our location. 1 Oxford Street, of course, is where? Right here. So we have now a bird’s-eye view, from a bird that's currently flying at about 3,000 feet. You can see in the bottom right corner of the screen your altitude, at least in feet. You can change that to meters or kilometers, if you prefer, via one of the menu options. But, notice—and it's a little hard to see if you don’t know to look for it, certainly on our screen here—in the top right of the screen, where my cursor is, there's a whole bunch of controls. One, there is a plus and minus in a vertical scroller. So if you simply click on that plus, as you might expect, things zoom in. If you instead click minus, you're going to zoom out. And then there's also a slider there, with which you can sort of move it back and forth without just clicking. But it should be fairly intuitive if you click on the thing yourself. Meanwhile, you can certainly move horizontally and vertically, and left to right, and so forth, to get a different vantage point. Just like Google Maps, if you're familiar, you can click on the display and just drag it around, which is perhaps even more intuitive. And if you're really adventurous, and zoom in, for instance, a little bit, and you kind of wonder what this building looks like from a different angle, you can use this slider up top to change your tilt. And you'll get a different perspective on the world. Notice, though, a curious thing happens, the more and more we go down. It turns out the earth is indeed flat. But this is obviously why—this result? Why are we seeing this? (student response) Malan: Right, so you don’t have a satellite looking in your window. You have it looking on top of your house from up above. But there are certain parts of the world where you do have multiple angles, or you have software... The software is designed to sort of interpolate even better what the shapes of those mountains are, or what the canyons are. And we'll go to one such place in just one moment. And this, meanwhile... I’m going to tilt us back up to a more reasonable level. Then you have this big wheel, which by default, points you north. But if you click on the big wheel and spin yourself around, you can sort of do a nice 180-spin in that way as well. Meanwhile, do take note, if you haven’t seen it already, in the bottom left of your screen, you have a whole bunch of layers. This is a fun place to play around because it offers different features of this program. Notice that I have checked "Terrain." That’s a good one to leave on, because, for those areas of the world where Google has sort of height information, it will show you more of a 3-D perspective, rather than an interpolated flat perspective. There are a whole bunch of other options here that you can play around with. If you want to find the nearest pizza place in some areas, you can click on such things as "Dining," or the nearest hotel, and it operates, in that regard, like Google Maps. But our purpose tonight is to sort of wow. And so notice in the middle left of this screen, under the thing called "Places," this is where you can store places you like. And essentially what Problem Set 4 asks you to do is to “placemark” a number of specified locations. This is like bookmarking, but a physical location, and it's terribly simple. There's a little thumbtack here at the top of the program. You click that thumbtack, and notice, you get one of these placemarks in the middle of the screen. You can then click it and drag it around. For instance, I’m putting it on top of Memorial Hall, which is just across the way, outside this building. And then up here you can type a name for it. So I could type "Memorial Hall." It tells you already what the latitude and longitude is, if that’s at all of interest. And then you can type a little description here, like, "Where freshmen eat meals," for instance. Annenberg Hall is inside of Memorial Hall. And then you click, "OK," and that’s as though you've placed a bookmark of sorts into this actual world. Notice that this placemark ended up under this “My Places” section of the page. But it’s only so much fun, if at all, listening to me talk. Why don’t we take ourselves on a very brief tour, perhaps to one of these places where terrain is of interest. So notice that Google gives you, by default, this Sightseeing folder. We created an empty folder a moment ago. But the program comes with a folder called "Sightseeing," with a whole bunch of popular locations. And why don’t we whisk ourselves over to the Grand Canyon? Suffices just to double-click on that thing. Notice we're heading out west in this country. We're about to zoom in. And the Grand Canyon is a wonderful example of... if you have the "Terrain" layer on, you'll actually get this 3-D mapping. And then if you really want to have a sort of IMAX experience, you can use the keyboard to navigate these controls, besides just using the top right, and you can sort of "fly" your way through the Grand Canyon and give yourself a little tour. It’s really wild. And notice, by contrast, if I turn off "Terrain"... there you, that's the Grand Canyon. So it does make a difference. Finally, let me offer you one other demo of my own design. Let’s whisk ourselves away to Boston, Massachusetts. And again, little tricks like "Boston, MA," that's sufficient. Google is smart about figuring out what you mean. We're going to jump over here, back to Massachusetts. It’s going to zoom in. Here we have the main part of downtown. If I drag it over, you can see Boston Common there, the big green area in the middle. But let’s focus in on the financial area, or right downtown, and click on one of these other layers, namely "3D Buildings," in just a moment. First I’m going to zoom in. And you can see that these are pretty good photos of these buildings. But if you want to really get a 3-D perspective, some cities have support for "3D Buildings." People have built virtual models of these buildings, such that now, if we dive into the middle of Boston, and sort of change our perspective, you can actually see what the city looks like from a 3-D perspective. And you can do this for some of the major cities. New York is another one, and so forth. Now, here's where you get to partake. Before we go back to understanding the Internet, let’s use it for just one more minute or so. Where in the world would you like me to take you on this tour? Student: London. Malan: London… so "London, U.K." Whisk ourselves away over the Atlantic. And in just a moment, we will find ourselves in central London. So, there’s the Thames, looking a little murky, as always. And if we scroll ourselves here, it looks like... This is the London Eye that it's taken us to, right there. So, the big Ferris wheel of sorts in London. Oh, one other thing, especially for those of you who use public transportation. Let me take us back real quick to Boston, Mass. I'll show you one other layer that’s kind of fun. I’m going to turn off "3D Buildings" by unchecking it. And then I’m going to turn on... under "Transportation," I’m going to turn on "Transit." And if you've ever wondered, topologically, what the MBTA system looks like, you can see it now with this nice overlay, not only for the subway, but also for the commuter rails, if you zoom out. And the coolest thing, frankly—I never get tired of this— if you just hold on the keyboard and zoom out, I mean, it’s like you're making your own movie, "2001"-style. So, in any case, one more place. Where do you want me to take you? Student: Big Bend National Park. Malan: Sorry, what? Student: Big Bend National Park. Malan: "Big Ben National Park." Student: Big Bend. Malan: Oh, "Bend," okay. "Big Bend National Park," let's see, here we go. Good, another one where terrain is nicely depicted. Here, too, I'll tilt us back on an axis. You can really see the 3-D there. That’s pretty wild. This has been a "Video of the Week." Thank you for watching.

Video Details

Duration: 10 minutes and 42 seconds
Country: United States
Language: English
Producer: Harvard Extension School's Computer Science E-1
Director: David J. Malan
Views: 118
Posted by: malan on May 16, 2009

Learn how to use Google Earth!

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