Probably the best session I’ve attended here at AAG in Chicago was yesterday afternoon’s “Geography v2.0: Internet-based Virtual Globes”. The presenters included Dave Maguire, head developer at ESRI, and Tim McGrath of Microsoft. There were also 2 papers discussing the use of Google Earth in geography research.
Dave’s talk focused on ArcGISExplorer, ESRI’s virtual globe. Dave referred to ArcGISExplorer, Google Earth, Virtual Earth, NASA’s World Wind and similar applications as “Geographic Exploration Systems” with 5 main components: 1) People; 2) Data; 3) the Server: 4) Web Access; and 5) the Viewer. The key is that these GES focus on the exploitation of geographic information, and Dave stressed the notion of Services Oriented Architecture, a term I’m sure we’ll be hearing a lot more of. Dave was all set to do a live demo of the beta of ArcGISExplorer, but the conference center did not get the live internet hookup running in time. However, the recorded demo was pretty impressively, and highlighted ESRI’s main focus of integrating various web services with the ArcGISExplorer base data to create a more powerful tool. Some of the feature highlights include: query by location/distance, Drive-time polygons, the client understands projections, the user can load geoprocessing models published via web services to execute GIS functions, the ability to mashup multiple services, and the available .NET developer API. All in all, we can’t wait to try it out.
As far as presentations go, Tim McGrath from Microsoft’s Virtual Earth Business Unit gave a nice rundown on Microsoft’s vision for its mapping applications and discussed the object-oriented approach used to develop its products. He showed a nice demo of some of the Virtual Earth features that we’ve seen, including the Bird’s-Eye view imagery and the recently-debuted Street-Side preview. He demonstrated the AutoLocate feature of Virtual Earth, which uses nearby WiFi hotspots to give your location, as well as the ability to integrate Instant Messenger into the Virtual Earth interface. All in all, Tim’s presentation showed that Microsoft has a long-term vision for their mapping products, and I think we might see some interesting stuff coming up in the future from them.