Move Over iPad, the Digital Globe Has Arrived

Can dynamic digital globes compete with flatter technologies like today’s iPad? Mark Vanhoenacker explores some of the possibilities these modern spheres may bring to places of work, study and play.

Read Time: 2 minutes

January 11, 2013, 10:00 AM PST

By Erica Gutiérrez


Vanhoenacker reports on the seemingly infinite possibilities of new and increasingly more affordable three-dimensional technologies that could be useful for what seems like anyone and everywhere. He writes, “Until recently, cost and technical limitations have largely confined these modern spheres to institutional settings like science centers. But as technology improves and prices fall, it’s growing more likely that a digital orb will someday arrive in a classroom or boardroom — even a living room — near you.”

He explains, "[l]ike the old-school globes once common in classrooms, digital globes vary in size… [b]ut [u]nlike the globes of your childhood, the image on a digital globe can be changed with the touch of a button.” These new globes are obviously useful in the fields of earth and atmospheric sciences, but are also being used to teach social sciences in classrooms in China, and could potentially be useful to a range of fields including data modeling.

The digital globes that are becoming more accessible today utilize internal projectors. These, however, are imperfect, with some lighting and structural issues, as well as costly, with prices ranging from about $21,000 to $43,000 for 24 to 32-inch diameter models. “Mike Foody, the C.E.O. of Global Imagination, says that he hopes to have education-discounted prices down to $2,500 within a year or two.” Vanhoenacker adds, “If he succeeds, that would be within the price point of other high-tech classroom equipment, like interactive whiteboards.” For many students, this may translate into greater learning opportunities.

Still other opportunities exist for businessmen and for the average joe. Corporations could, for example, use digital globes for "summarizing sales data or market penetration, say, or resource allocation, or the locations of globe-trotting team members." "[D]igital globes may find the most unlimited potential" in the home, concludes Vanhoenacker, adding, "[t]hink too, of music visualizations, digital aquariums, geotagged vacation photos, real-time flight tracking of your spouse’s trip, [and] Risk-style 'board' games."

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