Virtual Earth and Live Maps with Johanes Kebeck

Earlier on this week, Johannes Kebeck gave a presentation at my VBUG Bracknell group on Virtual Earth and Windows Live Maps. The venue for the event was the Bracknell Council Chambers, a plush location in the centre of town. 

The content throughout the evening was excellent. Johannes began by talking about the MapPoint background of Live Maps and key acquisitions throughout the years which makes Virtual Earth what it is today. These include partnerships with TerraServer, GeoTango, and Multimap.

Unlike Google Street View, the 3D imagery in Live Maps is extrapolated using the images taken from the sky. To capture these images, 5 cameras onboard an airplane are used and the the amount of storage required to hold a typical city is around 100TB. These images are processed using Windows HPC Server (High Performance Computing).

During the demonstration, Johannes demonstrated how maps can include time and weather information. During an overcast evening, a map will display a cloudy dark image.

Examples of commercial applications included the Harley Davidson website. Using the site, riders can upload their favourite motorcycle routes which are then displayed and shared with others on a map. Superimposed upon the maps are the locations of Shell petrol stations and Great Western hotels. Using sponsorship from these companies, Harley Davidson can profit from the site.

Johannes next described the 5 different APIs that are available. If using the JavaScript API, there is a project on CodePlex that adds intellisense to Visual Studio which can be found here.

One of the more fascinating parts of the talk was a demonstration on GeoCoding. Using the GeoNames ‘RSS to GeoRSS Converter’ web service found here, an input RSS feed is accepted. The output provided by this service adds longitude and latitude data.

During his demonstration, Johannes created a Popfly mashup in under 2 minutes. The BBC news RSS feed was used as the input. The impressive thing about the demo is that given a piece of text such as "The US president approves measures that will allow Cuban-Americans to travel more freely to Cuba", the service uses natural language processing to determine that the text relates to Cuba despite references to the US in the sentence.

Another interesting sites mentioned during the evening included a preview of upcoming technology which currently shows a race car demonstration.

Johannes also spoke about how maps are rendered using a pattern of squares that you can smoothly zoom into. This technology is closely related to DeepZoom and HD View. If you wish to create your own panoramic images that you can view using HD View, ICE (Image Composite Editor) can be used to do this.

More details about these applications can be found on the Microsoft Research site here:

During another demo, an existing PDF map was superimposed on top of a LiveMap. To do this, the MapCruncher application was used.


At the end of the evening, Alan Le Marquand from Microsoft kindly donated a TechNet subscription as a prize.  The evening was certainly interesting so many thanks to to Johannes and Alan for making the event a success.


About dotnettim

Tim Leung is a Microsoft .Net / SQL Server developer based in England.
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