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What happens when Second Life meets Google Earth?

That is the question asked in the July\August edition of MIT technology review. In a series of articles, the magazine suggests that a world of virtual earths and mirror globes will eventually replace the internet – a MetaVerse. This idea seems to be flavour of the month with similar articles appearing in other magazines (e.g. business week) and numerous blogs (including the prolific DigitalUrban) throughout the last couple of months.

Technology Review contributor, Wade Roush, talked with Google Maps director John Hanke about the feasibility of the MetaVerse. They suggest a logical first step towards the ‘MetaVerse’ is the representation of real geography, typical of mirror worlds like Google Earth (and ArcGIS Explorer), in virtual worlds like Second Life. Increasingly examples of this can apparently be found in Second Life, for example, researchers at the University of Denver host a dynamic NOAA weather map on a Second Life island. Roush and Hanke suggest the second and marginally more challenging step will be the representation of second life and its avatars in mirror worlds like ArcGIS Explorer and Google Earth. Well with the new OpenGL custom drawing capabilities in ArcGIS Explorer, that’s now possible. The wind vectors in the following video clip are rendered in OpenGL…

Why would you want to render second life avatars in ArcGIS Explorer? I really don’t know. But you can, and what’s more, you can now render any other OpenGL in ArcGIS Explorer. More usefully it may be the output of specialised software unique to your industry that you use to model, wind farms, air pollution, wind vectors or telecom coverage.

Pondering the potential of this new functionality, I discovered OGLE from eyebeam research. OGLE intercepts the OpenGL calls any application makes to the OpenGL library, using this technology it should be possible to extract anything that is drawn in OpenGL – as OpenGL, for example, the building layers in Google Earth, or even the avatars in Second Life. Using the new events and methods exposed in the new ArcGIS Explorer API, such data could now be rendered in ArcGIS Explorer (copyright permitting?).

James, Kirk and Keith remark on the latest release of ArcGIS Explorer elsewhere; and more info on the latest ArcGIS Explorer release can be found on the team blog and at the resource centre.

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