GoogleEarth 6 plants 3D trees

Google published version 6 of GoogleEarth and the most important update for our profession is that it comes with 3D trees!

However, not the whole Earth is populated with trees yet but only some areas in a few selected cities: According to TechCrunch 80 million trees were “planted” in Athens, Berlin, Chicago, New York City, San Francisco and Tokyo. Yet, the quality of trees is rather low but Google claims to distinguish 50 species already. Other updates of version 6 include an enhanced integration of StreetView and a more user-friendly overview and navigation through historic aerial images. The new version is a beta and does not update automatically but must be installed from the Google download site. A GoogleEarth showcase can be downloaded here.

The key question for us is how the integration may facilitate the use of GoogleEarth as a tool in landscape related design and planning professions. Sheppard and Cizek (2009) discussed the various technical and ethical issues of previous GoogleEarth versions and identified the lack of vegetation as one of the major limitations. Our tests in the Kimberley Climate Adaptation Project supported the argument that the lack of vegetation distorts the representation of future design scenarios in GoogleEarth and inhibits the otherwise potentially useful tool for landscape planning.

In this context, the new GoogleEarth version allows new user tests and applications. Next steps could be to explore how 3D trees are inserted and distributed, assessments how realistic GoogleEarth forest stands are,  and how user´s landscape perception will change with regard to Google´s “Tree View”. As one of the first new applications, is planning to use the virtual trees to push (real) reforestation campaigns.

New Major Biosphere3D Release

Biosphere3D rendering of Herod's 3rd winter palace and gardens
Biosphere3D rendering of Herod's 3rd winter palace and gardens

The new release of the free Landscape Scenery Globe Biosphere3D adds rendering effects such as ambient occlusion, shadow mapping and creation of camera paths and capture of animations.

New Biosphere3D logo by Henrik Andree
New Biosphere3D logo by Henrik Andree

Visualization of New York pre-settlement ecology in 1609

The Manhatta Project explored the ecology of today`s area of New York for the pre-settlement time in 1609. Their research shows that 55 different ecosystem types existed in the area. With the help of GIS, the ecosystems and habitat relationships were reconstructed and finally visualized (with “Hollywood technology”). In the following video, landscape ecologist Eric Sanderson explains in detail how his team worked on the Manhatta Project. He finishes his remarkable talk with an outlook how to vision the city of the future now.

Thanks to Kristi for drawing my attention to this great example of landscape visualization, based on landscape ecology.