Virtual Earth is coming. I kept hearing about it, but was not sure quite what to make of it. You will get to see it on Monday, when it debuts. I got to see a sneak preview internally a few weeks ago. It’s sort of like the NASA World Wind project, except it is hosted on a bigger faster server farm and has even more up-to-date information. It’s kind of spooky how accurate it can get, and what you can learn about yourself and the world around you.
It was a bit creepy, zooming in from such a lofting point of view, as if you are flying downward toward the earth at Mach 1. The city, just a moment before was a smear of grey. Now it is buildings and avenues; cars are on the roads and there seems to be some kind of concert being held in the park. You can’t yet see people, but the parking lot is full and there is a bunch of structures strewn across what was a grassy field.
I know my house is nearby, somewhere north. I slip into glide mode and start scrolling up the valley. I find my way by following a major artery, the road I take on my way home from work. Flying is much more satisfying than puttering down that road, stopping at all the lights. I soar through the intersections and bank to the left up a woodsy road that climbs up the hill. Now I’ve found my neighborhood. I bank left again and dip just a bit closer to the ground, careening by faster than I would dare to drive.
My house is one at the end of a cul-de-sac. I can see two cars in the drive so I know I must be at home. I stop now and hover over the roof. The back yard is still visible, long and narrow with patches of green vivid in the summer sun. Closer, I see a goose sitting near the bathroom skylight. I wonder if the eagle’s nest will be visible, but before I go searching around in the woods, what I really want to do is see inside.
I drop the vertical slowly using the mouse wheel. It’s like I’m landing a 1950’s space rocket over the top of my house, except I don’t actually hit anything. I slip down through the roof as if its not even there. It is, after all, only a simulation. I come to rest in the foyer. I can see the front door, a bit of the kitchen, the stairs leading up and the opening into the den. To my surprise someone is sitting at the desk, an avatar of sorts. It turns and looks at me. Virtual Earth is running on the PC in the background.
This product is eerie.