While Bing, or Bing Maps for that matter, don’t have the market share that Google or Google Maps have, Microsoft has been working hard to not only catch up but surpass its competitors in creating high quality photographic maps.
Today, Quentin Hardy at Forbes Magazine points out the work of one effort in Bing Maps: the Global Ortho Project. The goal is to create a “uniform, detailed map of the Continental United States and 17 countries in Western and Central Europe”. Hardy is impressed by the results:
The results are spectacular – a single view of about 7 million square miles, with relatively even lighting and height, at a granularity of about 30 centimeters of land per pixel of image.
It is an impressive home-grown undertaking – Google gets its images from many sources, and while they are decent, they change as you go from one location to another, or zoom in on something.
To do it, Microsoft developed its own highly efficient camera, and mounted it in several planes that were also loaded with 13 PCs for image processing. It then flew the planes north/south (for light standardization), in lines about eight kilometers apart, at 17,000 feet, shooting 220 megapixels every 2 seconds.
They’ve been quietly rolling much of this into Bing Maps for several months, and about 25% of the total is up, with more coming on every day. Total miles flown: about 730,000. Cost: about $130 million.
We’ve been telling you for years about the hi-res cameras Bing is using to fly over and capture images (Mark Brown had a good series on “Behind the Maps” on Channel 9 that went in depth on the UltraCam), and the Global Ortho Project is the culmination of a long term project to automate and improve aerial imagery mapping techniques.
In a video released today, some of the engineers working on the project talk about their work:
Video: Bing Maps Global Ortho Project
Hardy speculates, and rightly so, that Microsoft’s focus in investing so heavily in mapping services may well be aimed at the enterprise market, he notes that Google has just announced a cloud based mapping service for business, but as we noted yesterday, maps and location based services are going to be crucial in the mobile market, and along with efforts such as the Read/Write World, along with deep cooperation with Nokia/Navteq, Bing Maps is set to continue to push innovation in the mapping world.