Wednesday, May 03, 2006

NASA World Wind

Mars in NASA World Wind

Google Earth has called down the thunder; NASA will reap the whirlwind. World Wind that is. Without my knowing until very recently I had no idea NASA had an open-source competitor to Google Earth name World Wind.

I have been trying the software and here are my thoughts:

Positive: Not only does this thing have Earth but it also has globes for the Moon, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, one of Jupiter’s moons, and a star map. Multiple layers can be used to show different colors and details. The 3D imagery is better than Google's so-so 3D. The transition from far away to close up is done with multiple graphics giving a smooth look rather than Google's jagged look.

Really Positive: One can upload real-time weather effects. One can also adjust the time, day, and year of the globe in order to view eclipse shadows on the surface the Earth. An added layer on the Earth is topographic maps! Do you know how cool that is?

Bad: The menu system can be confusing as heck. Do I want pseudo-color or urban area orthographic? Many people, including me sometimes, just don't know. Zooming in is disorientating at first with load times taking forever. When one looks at other planets in the program confusion reaches fever pitch. Finally, if anyone figures out star map please tell me. I have no idea what is going on (see comments for help on this).

I think I'll stick to Google Earth for the time being as my primary map software but World Wind will have its place for topographic and extra-terra exploration.

Final Review Grade: 3.5 out of 5

Update: Load times are a pain but they are getting better.


Anonymous said...

Might I suggest going throug the Tours? There are several that walk through the major features and explain what all the data layers are.

World Wind Tours

All of this is explained if people would bother to look.

Catholicgauze said...

Thanks for the link.

I guess I am of the Nintendo generation and want everything right now.

However, the thing about Google Earth is that one can get started right away. I know World Wind is a heavier product but everyone loves immediate usability.