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Using Google Maps? You May Be Looking at a Home-Made Map

BY Miranda Neubauer | Friday, April 20 2012

Public Laboratory image of WhereCamp, Stanford University (April 2011) in Google Earth

Google Earth is now using 45 maps from the Public Laboratory for Open Technology and Science, the group announced in an e-mail. The Public Laboratory is a community which develops and applies open-source tools to environmental exploration and investigation. This includes what they call "grassroots mapping" — using relatively low-cost tools like helium balloons and Flip cameras to create satellite imagery independent of big institutions or the government, which made a high-profile appearance along the Gulf Coast after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

The Public Laboratory archive includes many maps released into the public domain. Google is now incorporating those maps into Google Earth's historic imagery database and into Google Maps.

Google's Lat Long blog notes that several of the images it included from PLOTS had been created with a balloon mapping toolkit "that allows anyone with an inexpensive digital point and shoot camera, and about $100 of other parts (balloon, helium, line, soda bottle, etc.) to take photos of the ground around them."

PLOTS offers a tool called MapKnitter to then align the photos into a georeferenced image that can be used by a program such as Google Earth.

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