Today is Earth Day, an annual event first celebrated in 1970 to bring attention to the state of our planet’s environment. We at Bing Maps have the incredible opportunity to focus on the earth every day as we work on improving and adding to our vast collection of aerial and Streetside imagery. This month, in addition to delivering a lot of new imagery (see the listing at the bottom this post), we re-released our global aerial 2D data set with a host of quality improvements.
The Earth is a Big Place to Photograph
Earlier this month we re-released our entire global dataset (roughly a half petabyte worth of imagery) with our latest fixes to clean up some areas of missing imagery and inconsistent color or resolution. The earth’s surface area is just shy of 197 million square miles (510 million square kilometers), which is a lot of ground to cover with pictures. But thanks to many years of acquiring our own imagery taken from aircraft and long term partnerships with satellite companies like Digital Globe, Bing Maps is able to provide a seamless user experience using a global orthomosaic. An orthomosaic is simply a mosaic of orthographic imagery—pictures taken pointing straight down that have been corrected for distortions due to terrain and viewing angle. You can tell when an aerial photo has been orthorectified because only the tops of buildings are seen across the entire extent of the image:
Orthorectified aerial image of lower Manhattan on Bing Maps
Without rectification you would see the sides of the buildings at the edges of the photo.
Bing Maps uses many, many imagery sources to create a global mosaic and getting it to look seamless is complicated by different cameras, resolutions and radiometry. We continually look for ways to improve the complex computer algorithms that perform the bulk of the work of choosing the best images, correcting color variations, and stitching them together:
Improvements to aerial image resolution and consistency near Honolulu, Hawaii on Bing Maps
We will keep working on acquiring new and improving our existing imagery so stay tuned for more updates.
Hooray for Satellites!
Prior blog posts have focused a lot on cool 3D and Streetside imagery from urban areas but the earth has many, many strikingly visual scenes outside of cities. Satellites offer the best way to reach remote areas where the earth’s environment can be observed in a visual way. This month’s imagery release includes over 12 million square kilometers of updated satellite imagery, courtesy of Digital Globe. Below are some examples of how beautiful our planet is when seen from space. (These images are quite zoomed out. Click the links to view the incredible detail available from satellite images.)
Saloum River in Senegal on Bing Maps
Farm fields near Sau Paulo, Brazil on Bing Maps
Frozen lake in Tibet, China on Bing Maps
While satellites cover a lot of ground quickly and efficiently, cameras mounted in airplanes (like the Microsoft-developed UltraCam series) are often better when you want to ensure the best conditions for aerial photography. Bing Maps has operated a small fleet of aircraft and cameras for many years in order to bring you the best quality aerial imagery of top locations around the world. Several Japanese cities are featured in this month’s release of new imagery:
Tokyo Tower in Tokyo, Japan on Bing Maps
Yokohama Cosmoworld in Yokohama Japan on Bing Maps
I hope you enjoyed this brief look at what’s new this month on Bing Maps and take some time to enjoy Earth Day by browsing some more incredible images of our planet. Leave a comment here and tell us what you think or let us know on Twitter (@BingMaps).
Mike Gilbert, Principal Lead Program Manager Bing Maps
New Aerial cities this month include:
New Streetside cities this month include:
|Long Beach, CA
|Pacific Palisades, CA
|Studio City, CA