Spent the day playing with the free version of Google Earth (download here) and I find it very intriguing and fun at the same time. For those how have no clue of what I am saying here, Google Earth is a ground-breaking (in my opinion) application in fusing the mapping and web technology. I know there are the old players out there whom already have covered this ground, but not to the extent of getting people with no GIS experience and knowledge to actually love using it. To shed some light on this (until you download and give it a try) it’s actually a 3D mapping program which relies on internet connection to download satellite maps and other information. Other features are like uploading your GPS handheld tracks to see where you have been, or import/export to numerous formats to be used in other GIS applications.
I can see a new group of internet users out there emerging just by the release of this application: the die-hard travellers seeking new adventurous or romantic travel spots around the world. In the old days, travel-seekers would buy lots of paper maps, magazines & books about the place they want to visit. In near future, people will start to rely on Google Earth to aid them in planning their trip. I can see that because people are already surfing the web (using Google to search, nontheless) to get more information about the places of interest. Now you’ll be asking “what is so ground-breaking about this program?”. The answer is simple, Google Earth’s community is growing and more people are contributing to add more information to the database. So if you pickup this program in another year’s time, you’ll be able to pick which longhouse in the Borneo Rain Forest you would like to spend your annual leave for an adventurous vacation! Now this is just part of what the program can do, other trends of applying the technology is also emerging: online war gaming on actual real countries, real-estate assessment, to name a few. Look what they are offering now, the waypoints to where all events of Torrino 2006 will be held. I did check out the location, and it was breathtaking seeing the 3D landscape of mountain terrains which is nicely rendered using either OpenGL or DirectX. Speaking of which, you will need to ensure your PC is powerful enough to handle this program. I remember reading from their requirements about computers older than 4 years old might have problem running smoothly.