TinyURL points to Harlem ghost-lady

Once again, US Air (a.k.a. US-SCARE) has made my life difficult. I was hoping to fly back from Myrtle Beach, SC to Denver yesterday and they cancelled my flight (Myrtle Beach is where the GeoTools conference was and a meeting of the Ecosystem Based Management Tools Network).  

3 minute read

March 6, 2009, 12:30 AM PST

By Ken Snyder

Once again, US Air (a.k.a. US-SCARE) has made my life difficult. I was hoping to fly back from Myrtle Beach, SC to Denver yesterday and they cancelled my flight (Myrtle Beach is where the GeoTools conference was and a meeting of the Ecosystem Based Management Tools Network).  

While sitting in my hotel, I decided to do something I have not done for a long time – random surfing. I thought, what if I googled "go to tinyurl.com" to see what people had posted? Tinyurl.com/ht-harlem2, caught my eye because I thought you could only create tinyurl's with the arbitrary 6 letter codes tinyurl.com generated for you and yet they somehow made one with their own customized code (a new feature now on tinyurl).

What I found was amazing -- an extremely sophisticated stitched together panorama of Harlem. A month ago, I had seen a similar high resolution images of Inauguration day where you could zoom in to see everyone on stage with the President as well as people's faces a good 1/2 mile down the DC mall. But the resolution of this site is even more incredible – you can zoom in to a building several miles away and still see detail down to the individual bricks of the building.

Because they created this zoomable panorama with stitched together images, you get some interesting images in places where there is movement -- ghost images of cars going through each other and semi-transparent people walking down the sidewalk.

ghost lady

So what does this mean for planners?  You tell me.  One thing is for certain – Harlem is a much more interesting place than this pit of a hotel plopped in the middle amaze of concrete ugliness at 1 AM in the morning.

Zoom into building detail 

Zoom into street lifeHere are two sets of screen captures I took showing how far you can zoom in.  The first set, I zoomed into a building way off in the horizon.  The second, probably a mile away, you can see a dad holding his son's hand while walking on the street.

It took some sleep and a shower to ponder the significance of this technology to planning. I remembered a review I read in Outside about the latest line of ultra-high resolution video cameras from the Red Digital Cinema Camera company.  To quote them:

"If you're used to shopping for digital
still cameras by megapixels-a good one now gets 10 to 20-consider that
the Epic shoots up to 260. That's not an incremental shift; it's like
releasing the iPhone in 1980."

The Epic sells for $50K, the Scarlet for $3K.  And we're talking about video, not just still shots, so imagine being able to take 65 megapixel shots at 50 frames a second. So:

1. Say good-bye to privacy in public spaces!  Unless you have 4 walls around you or you're in a thick fog, don't be surprised to see a recognizable photo of yourself someday  in a picture taken miles away.

2. With great power comes great possibility.  The ability to look at a cityscape in such fine detail gives us the ability to study it carefully and think about what works and what doesn't work.  The list of potential visualization applications keeps growing and growing.   


Ken Snyder

Ken Snyder is Executive Director of PlaceMatters

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