Saturday, June 4, 2011

Fictional Worlds in Street View

I hope I'm not shocking anyone, but Liberty City isn't a real place. The central location in the video game Grand Theft Auto is a fictional self-contained world, a sandbox in gaming terms where there are missions but you essentially have free reign of the city, not confined to a narrow path like in some other kinds of RPG video games.

So why am I talking about video games, aside from the fact that video games are AWESOME?

Recently, I discovered a map on a fan site for Grand Theft Auto IV. It's actually not the first one, the first one I've seen was on IGN. Both these sites use Custom Projections and map tiles to define a map that shows only Liberty City with no reference to Google Map tiles.

 The new site though has a significant new feature, it uses Custom Street View Panoramas to display the Street View of Liberty City. Go ahead, try it, drop pegman onto the city and check out the panoramas. I'll wait.


Pretty awesome, huh? There's an interesting hack going on too. When you add a custom panorama it doesn't become part of the blue overlay that happens when you grab pegman but before you drop it. Since the designer had access to all the road data, since they designed the map, they were able to create a custom pegman that created their own custom blue overlay that allows you to see where Street View is.

I'm hoping we'll see more of these kind of fictional places in Street View Maps API implementations. The code for it is reasonably simple, creating the actual panoramas is more difficult. I hope this sort of thing inspires people to use the Maps API to show planning projects too, showing interiors of buildings yet to be built, etc.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Hacking Google Earth to show Earth Interiors

At the Smithsonian today I showed off Declan de Paor's classic interior of Mt. Fuji which uses time animation and SketchUp models to show half Fuji sliding out to reveal the interior cone. I mentioned this to Declan and he pointed me to his recent use of Mars in Google Earth to represent the core of the Earth, and building on top of that. Pretty cool. Here's his more complete write-up.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Working with People

The Humanities are traditionally a lonely profession. While in the hard sciences it's not uncommon to see a long list of names on papers, in Humanities professions there's little reward for multiple people working on a project. Tenure was based on articles you wrote, sole project work. One of the reasons I love digital humanities work is that people are coming together, breaking the restrictive bonds of solitary work. It was the reason I went back to grad school in 2004, tired of being the lone computer guy at a non-profit doing interesting data management work for people who largely didn't understand what I did.

Today I was lucky enough to meet with folks at the Scholar's Lab and the SHANTI at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. It was inspiring to see the work they're doing by coming together, and building great projects. As David Germano explained it, the early days of DH work were dominated by projects built around individuals. Which mean highly specialized projects that had to be continuously maintained by individuals who also had to fundraise for them. These projects were difficult to bring to other applications. Now, they're trying to build infrastructure projects, or better yet build on top of infrastructure projects to build the capacity for all DH professionals to do powerful projects. And of course, since a huge number of their projects have a geospatial component, they were fans of Google Maps and Earth. But Fusion Tables was pretty new, so I hopefully helped them out there.

Tomorrow, I am meeting with people at the Smithsonian and then hurrying back to Fairfax for THATCamp where I'm leading a self-guided a workshop on Google Geo. Come and join us. And work together to develop projects.