Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Typewriter Earth

A lot of people have spent a lot of time looking for letters in satellite imagery.

First there was Rhett Dashwood - Google Maps Typography, in which Rhett Dashwood scoured Google Maps to find all the letters of the alphabet in geographical features found in satellite imagery. Then came the Google Maps Typewriter, an application that lets you type in words and see them represented with, yes you guessed it, letters of the alphabet found on Google Maps.

There is even a Google Earth Clock! A digital clock assembled from satellite views of Earth. Just load up the page and watch as the clock loads different Google Earth views so that it always shows the current time.

Aerial Bold however think that not enough people are spending their free-time hunting for letters in satellite images. They have therefore devised a crowd-sourced science project to envourage people to find more.

Head over to Aerial Bold and you can spend the rest of the day looking for letters. All you have to do is find buildings or geographical shapes that resemble a letter of the alphabet on a satellite map. You then type in the letter you see and highlight the area on the map.

There is actually a serious purpose behind this crowd-sourced letter hunt. The data gathered from the exercise is being used to train a letterform detection and classification algorithm, which will be able to automate the process of findng letter shapes in satellite imagery.

Onformative have already created a computer program, called GoogleFaces, that scans Google Maps satellite imagery looking for patterns that humans might believe are human faces. GoogleFaces scans through one satellite image after another on Google Maps, sequentially along the latitude and longitude of the globe. After scanning around the world it then switches to the next zoom level and starts all over again.

As it scans each satellite imagery the GoogleFaces face detection algorithm records the latitude and longitude of any 'faces' it finds. The onformative website has a few examples of the faces already found on Google Maps, including the one above, found in the satellite imagery of Russia.

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