Google Earth with Audio

May 13th, 2007 by Gabriel Bodard

This interesting post over at New Scientist Tech:

Bernie Krause has spent 40 years collecting over 3500 hours of sound recordings from all over the world, including bird and whale song and the crackle of melting glaciers. His company, Wild Sanctuary in Glen Ellen, California, has now created software to embed these sound files into the relevant locations in Google Earth. Just zoom in on your chosen spot and listen to local sounds.

“Our objective is to bring the world alive,” says Krause. “We have all the continents of the world, high mountains and low deserts.”

He hopes it will make virtual visitors more aware of the impact of human activity on the environment in the years since he began making and collecting the recordings. Users will be able to hear various modern-day sounds at a particular location, then travel back in time to compare them with the noises of decades gone by.

This is more than just a cool mashup of sounds with locations; the idea has repercussions in all sorts of departments, not least technical. At the end of the NS article is a note:

Another project, called Freesound, is making contributors’ sound files available on Google Earth. Unlike these recordings, Krause’s sound files are of a consistent quality and enriched with time, date and weather information.

Freesound is a Creative Commons site and more interesting from the Web 2.0 perspetive, as content is freely user-generated. What is exciting is the way that sites can make all sorts of media available through georeferences in Google Earth/Maps now (as for example the Pleiades Project are doing with classical sites). The question will be how such rich results are filtered: will Google provide overlays that filter by more than just keywords, or will third-party sites (like Wild Sanctuary and Pleiades) need to create web services that take advantage of the open technologies but provide their own filters? (Tom can probably answer these questions already…)

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