Friday, October 07, 2005

Earth googling

Okay so I know I’ve got in on this really late, but just in case there’s anyone still left to recommend this to: Google Earth is superb! Had been looking at it perfunctorily on others’ comps in office, but yesterday for the first time I sat myself down for an indepth session, tracing aerial views of roads and landmarks in Delhi.

Though I did a lot of route-tracking (especially around the Panchshila-Saket region, which is where I’ve lived for most of my life), my points of reference were open-air swimming pools, which are quite clearly visible even without zooming in too close. The one in the Panchshila club, where I learnt swimming as a child; the one in my school (St Columba’s), the large one at the Saket Sports Complex (where I’ve been going the past few years) – and most memorably, the one at the Saket Cultural Club, which is just across the road from the PVR complex. (Most memorably because this one is more distinct in appearance than the others: there’s a small circular shallow pool for kids just a little way off from the main, rectangle-shaped one, and I could see both very clearly.)

I’ve blogged before about how new technology (or even a signpost of urban development, like a major new flyover that completely alters a landscape) sometimes puts up a wall between me and my childhood memories; making me feel like a stranger to my former selves, making the city feel unfamiliar too. This is one of the few times it had the opposite effect. To start with, there’s something comforting about viewing familiar roads from the perspective provided by Google Earth. Seen from this angle, you can’t make out that much has changed (except for the odd detour or two). The city hasn’t really shifted - notwithstanding all those flyovers and the metro construction, the fundamentals are still in place. It’s a whimsical way of looking at things, but I’ll take it.

The best part (and I’m sure everyone has done this too) is homing in on your house and then clicking on ‘zoom out’: watching as the view gets smaller and smaller, progressing from individual lanes to apartment blocks to colonies until it encompasses the whole city, then the entire NCR region, then the country…and so on until you have the globe hurtling through black space. Giddying experience, puts a lot in perspective.

Frustratingly, my Net connection at home is still slow, but I’ve downloaded the application anyway. Much exploring ahead. If you haven’t tried it yet, do.


  1. well various governments round the world are in a tizzy about its impact on the national security.

    and google like a good patriotic american company has shown high security american installations as blank spaces.

    that apart, it has quite a few applications in areas like real estate, infrastructure planning etc. ive seen supply chain blokes in my company tool around with it trying to see if they can do better transportation routing. definitely has lots of scope. and google does offer high end pro service to companies interested in commercial applications.

  2. The amount of context that is available (annotations of road names, neighbourhoods etc.) in the information obsessed maps of the western world is high. However, narrowing down to the neighbourhood that you grew up in India or ones that you are familiar with appears difficult without such annotations!

  3. Crazy coincidence, dude! Last week I too "discovered" Google Earth (even though it has been around for some time now I guess). And I have been going on exclaiming about it to everybody who will care to listen. It truly is AMAZING! The first thing that I tried to do was locate Kolkata. However, probably because the city is still not as "happening" as the other metros, the resolution is not so great. And the only recognisable landmarks seemed to be these two black lines - the Howrah Bridge and the Vidyasagar Setu, respectively - across the squiggly blue of the Hooghly. Next, I homed in on Delhi. Starting from the Rashtrapati Bhavan, I traced my way to the Yamuna (even a bird's eye view is enough to tell that it's one very polluted water body!), past the newly-constructed Akshardham Temple and down the Noida Link Road to Mayur Vihar Phase I, the place I called home during my last year in Delhi! And the resolution was so good that I could clearly make out the row of DDA flats, one of which I stayed in! And talking of security hazards, a couple of us zoomed into the Mumbai harbour and could clearly make out what could have not been nothing but the INS Viraat, the pride of our Navy! But I don't think it is really a cause for worry, because if you move a few degrees northwest you can probably see a fleet of Pakistan Navy ships berthed in the Karachi harbour! So, there ain't no Big Brothers now, the world's now one giant peephole!

  4. I am in sync with your it zooming out, or "something comforting about viewing familiar roads from the perspective provided by Google Earth"..I had the same experience and was glued to it for hours...locating the routes i took to college, to offices, locating friends house is a good experience...and as for as the practical value is is very useful for me as i usually miss the routes..or land up somewehre toher than expected...

  5. kalam is worried GE will bring more bombs home. and really, why do you need it in the first place. I mean tracking swimming pools from childhood , for one. And.....??