SeaDragon Maps, was: Google does it again - with maps

9 Feb 2005 - 9:49pm
9 years ago
12 replies
1413 reads
Andrei Herasimchuk
2004

As a great example of the kinds of differences in terms of robust user
interaction between the new Google maps inside a browser and a
dedicated client app/engine see:

http://www.sandcodex.com/

Click the DEMOS link then click the MAP DEMO link. Yeah, another
website designed in Flash and the demo file is 15MB, I know. But the
demo file itself is rather interesting and very cool. Note the demo
rotates the map and does all sorts of fancy interactions with seemingly
no external UI controls whatsoever, using either mouse gestures or key
modifiers I presume to do the map navigation.

Now, after watching this demo and to avoid letting the discussion
devolve into DTA v. WBA brawl, where I think it gets interesting is
what kind of differences you, as an interface designer, would have to
make in creating a product when going the imagemap/http route that
Google has chosen or the route that this engine has gone. Even more
interesting outside that discussion is how can you design an interface
that scales across devices, especially given a robust map engine like
this?

To get more specific, if you were designing an product line using this
SeaDragon technology, how would you implement it inside the context of
a web page using its Active/X control instance versus how you would use
it in its own custom client designed for various media/hardware
configs, like a cell phone, car navigation system, PDA or desktop
application?

Andrei

Comments

10 Feb 2005 - 8:50am
Manu Sharma
2003

Andrei:
> As a great example of the kinds of differences in terms of robust
user interaction between the new Google maps inside a browser and a
dedicated client app/engine see: http://www.sandcodex.com/

I doubt if anyone will claim that there's no loss of quality of
interaction/ experience when a browser based web app attempts to what
has traditionally been done with a desktop client app. Though this will
reduce as bandwidth improves, the sacrifice of experience today is
generally accepted. The advantages of web apps lie elsewhere.

> Click the DEMOS link then click the MAP DEMO link. Yeah, another
website designed in Flash and the demo file is 15MB

Something that could have been easily demonstrated in a 3MB file.

> But the demo file itself is rather interesting and very cool.

I may have gone there with a bias but I really didn't find anything
exciting. Have you tried Keyhole yet? The 15MB SeaDragon demo doesn't
display a fraction of functionality that I get in the 9MB trial run of
Keyhole. Their demo pales in comparison to the astounding animations of
Keyhole based on satellite images. http://keyhole.com

> Note the demo rotates the map and does all sorts of fancy
interactions with seemingly no external UI controls whatsoever, using
either mouse gestures or key modifiers I presume to do the map
navigation.

There are only three things this demo does as far as interaction is
concerned: zoom in and out with remarkable speed, pan and rotate the
canvas. Google Maps does much of this much the same way. Except of
course, it's a million times slower which makes all the difference [a
bandwidth limitation]. SeaDragon zooms to the centre and not where the
mouse pointer is, just like Google Maps. The only thing Google doesn't
do is rotate the canvas which I'd guess shouldn't be very difficult to
implement.

The main functionality of SeaDragon is zooming in and out amazingly
fast. But we've already seen this implemented very gracefully in Jef
Raskin's demo of THE zoomable user interface released couple of years
ago [now renamed as AZA]. If I remember correctly, it used arrow keys
to zoom in/ out and mouse pointer to focus where to zoom. The 8mb demo
is at http://www.raskincenter.org/main/img/zoomdemo.swf [the site
appears to be down at this moment].

Manu.

10 Feb 2005 - 9:54am
Dave Malouf
2005

How can we make any judgements of this demo ... it's a video. Makes it
hard to do a raw comparision. I do like what is presented, but it is a
video.
--
David Heller
E: dheller (at) gmail (dot) com
W: www (dot) synapticburn (dot) com

10 Feb 2005 - 10:01am
Pradyot Rai
2004

Manu Sharma <manu at orangehues.com> wrote:
> ... The only thing Google doesn't
> do is rotate the canvas which I'd guess shouldn't be very difficult to
> implement.

Manu, my evaluation period for keyhole has expired, so I can not
varify. But I remember that you can rotate and tilt Google's keyhole
too. Their website says the same -- "Tilt, Rotate, Visualize Terrain
in 3D".

Prady

10 Feb 2005 - 11:13am
Manu Sharma
2003

> How can we make any judgements of this demo ... it's a video. Makes
it
> hard to do a raw comparision. I do like what is presented, but it is
a
> video.

Yes, but it's clear to guage from the video, as the voice over also
mentions, the interface only does three things: zoom, pan and rotate.

If you observe carefully, you can notice other things about it as well.
It zooms to the centre, independent of the placement of the pointer.
Clearly, it's done with the keybord as no mouse gesture is involved.
Panning, as is obvious, is done by grabbing the canvas with the mouse.
And rotation could be either mouse controlled [scroll wheel] or
keyboard based [arrow keys].

The zoom control is implemented very well but that's it. I certainly
didn't see any "fancy interactions." As I said, in Google Maps zooming
and panning is done [controlled] exactly the same way.

The Jef Raskin demo I mentioned is slightly superior because it reduces
the need to constantly pan as it allows you to do focussed zooming. To
view the demo go to http://www.raskincenter.org/ and jump to the bottom
of the page.

Manu.

10 Feb 2005 - 11:23am
Manu Sharma
2003

Dave:
> How can we make any judgements of this demo ... it's a video. Makes it hard to do a raw comparision. I do like what is presented, but it is a video.

Yes, but it's clear to guage from the video, as the voice over also
mentions, the interface only does three things: zoom, pan and rotate.

If you observe carefully, you can notice other things about it as
well. It zooms to the centre, independent of the placement of the
pointer. Clearly, it's done with the keybord as no mouse gesture is
involved. Panning, as is obvious, is done by grabbing the canvas with
the mouse. And rotation could be either mouse controlled [scroll
wheel] or keyboard based [arrow keys].

The zoom control is implemented very well but that's it. I certainly
didn't see any "fancy interactions." As I said, in Google Maps zooming
and panning is done [controlled] exactly the same way. And as Prady
corrects me [tks!], it can rotate as well.

The Jef Raskin demo I mentioned is slightly superior because it
reduces the need to constantly pan as it allows you to do focussed
zooming. To view the demo go to http://www.raskincenter.org/ and jump
to the bottom of the page.

Manu.

10 Feb 2005 - 1:06pm
Andrei Herasimchuk
2004

On Feb 10, 2005, at 5:50 AM, Manu Sharma wrote:

> I doubt if anyone will claim that there's no loss of quality of
> interaction/ experience when a browser based web app attempts to what
> has traditionally been done with a desktop client app. Though this will
> reduce as bandwidth improves, the sacrifice of experience today is
> generally accepted. The advantages of web apps lie elsewhere.

Tying the quality of experience/interaction of a desktop app to a
browser based app based on bandwidth is really not the case.
Interaction possibilities has less to do with bandwidth, and so much
more to do with the chosen development platform.

> I may have gone there with a bias but I really didn't find anything
> exciting. Have you tried Keyhole yet? The 15MB SeaDragon demo doesn't
> display a fraction of functionality that I get in the 9MB trial run of
> Keyhole. Their demo pales in comparison to the astounding animations of
> Keyhole based on satellite images. http://keyhole.com

I have seen Keyhole, and yes it is just as cool. I was trying to find a
better apples to apples comparison for this discussion, as keyhole is
more photorealistic than either Google maps or SeaDragon. And I'm not
convinced people need photo look and feel for better map applications,
as I prefer the standard map appearance and graphics that Google Maps
and SeaDragon provide.

> There are only three things this demo does as far as interaction is
> concerned: zoom in and out with remarkable speed, pan and rotate the
> canvas. Google Maps does much of this much the same way.

You must be joking with me. That Google does this much the same way
that is.

> Except of course, it's a million times slower which makes all the
> difference [a
> bandwidth limitation].

It's not a bandwidth limitation. It's different technology. The demo in
question would work across the same pipeline as Google does today.

> The only thing Google doesn't
> do is rotate the canvas which I'd guess shouldn't be very difficult to
> implement.

I have no idea how you can make this sort of statement. Rotation
requires resampling, and all sorts of other imaging technologies (like
memory management and threads and process control) that the Google
implementation doesn't even begin to address. For Google to do it would
get them on the same road as SeaDragon.

> The main functionality of SeaDragon is zooming in and out amazingly
> fast.

And the possible interaction one can design for the end-user given that
sort of engine.

Andrei

10 Feb 2005 - 1:20pm
Andrei Herasimchuk
2004

> Dave:
>> How can we make any judgements of this demo ... it's a video. Makes
>> it hard to do a raw comparision. I do like what is presented, but it
>> is a video.

I'm not sure why this is a problem. It's a video of a live
presentation. One is supposed to assume the real interaction is just
the same, just interactive.

On Feb 10, 2005, at 8:23 AM, Manu Sharma wrote:

> The zoom control is implemented very well but that's it. I certainly
> didn't see any "fancy interactions."

Define "fancy" then.

> As I said, in Google Maps zooming
> and panning is done [controlled] exactly the same way.

Panning appears to be controlled in same way (and I assume you mean
they both use some method of click-drag to pan, although I'd be willing
to bet that zoom and rotate are done via modifiers), but that misses
the larger point.

Given an engine like this that doesn't rely on being inside a browser
and using web-based protocols to get content, what possibilities could
you implement that take the experience farther and higher, and yes,
even more usable? (Shall I provide examples of what I'm thinking? I
will but I was hoping to let others do so first.)

The Sea Dragon engine could be implemented in such a way as to give
baseline interaction as Google Maps does, with the added cool factor of
live pan and dynamic zoom, arbitrary rotation and little appearance of
grabbing content from the server. Which in and of itself is a very big
bullet point on the both the product marketing brochure and cool
factor. From there, Sea Dragon has a larger ceiling with regard to how
it can be designed into a product line than Google Maps does. And with
that at your disposal, what can you as an interface designer do with
it?

> The Jef Raskin demo I mentioned is slightly superior because it
> reduces the need to constantly pan as it allows you to do focussed
> zooming.

I disagree with the rationale behind this statement, but even outside
of that opinion, changing that sort of behavior is an extraordinarily
minor point in the discussion. Changing the basic behavior of any of
the examples in question is fairly straight-forward.

Andrei

10 Feb 2005 - 2:23pm
Manu Sharma
2003

Andrei,

Since you're talking about something that "doesn't rely on being inside
a browser and using web-based protocols to get content" then how's
comparing it with Keyhole isn't comparing apples and apples?

You cite "cool factor of live pan and dynamic zoom, arbitrary rotation"
and bullet points on product brochure of SeaDragon and reject Keyhole
because it has all those features AND photographic [not photorealistic]
topography you can fly over? Calling Keyhole "just as cool" sounds like
an understatement to me :-).

Keyhole doesn't need a product brochure because it already has 10,000
clients that feature hundreds of fortune 1000 companies including
organisations such as ABC, CNN, the UN and the US department of
defense. They certainly think Keyhole is cool.

I couldn't find a list of clients on SeaDragon site.

Manu.

10 Feb 2005 - 2:48pm
Manu Sharma
2003

Manu:
> didn't see any "fancy interactions."

Andrei:
> Define "fancy" then.

It was your term...and it's relative. Anyway, here's what I'd call a
fancy interaction:

"Total Immersion's D'Fusion software solution allows for real-time
video capture and perfect merges between video streams and 3D
objects... This turns your world into an immersive gaming experience,
where you are IN the game...or where the game is all around you. Words
cant really describe this, so just check out the video."

http://tinyurl.com/45kbd

Manu.

10 Feb 2005 - 3:06pm
Mal
2005

>http://tinyurl.com/45kbd
>
>
>
Wow! That is some impressive technology!

I've always been more interested in "technology for the people", ie
technology that can be accessed and interacted with by users with a
normal spec computer an internet connection ( for global appeal ), but
it's great to see this type of technology being pushed out there...
maybe as webcams get higher resolutions, and scenes can be
pre-configured ( eg maybe move the camera around a bit during an
initialisation so that the dimensions of the scene can be pre-calculated
), this type of technology will be more accessible by normal users.

To see a cool example of a more basic version of augmented reality, that
you can try out right now with a web cam and a Shockwave plugin ( Note:
no other plugins are required: the Webcam technology is used from Flash,
and processed in Shockwave ), check out the demos at...

http://www.playdocam.com/

Think Playstation EyeToy, but with a global audience.

Regards...
Mal

10 Feb 2005 - 4:12pm
Andrei Herasimchuk
2004

Manu Sharma wrote:

> You cite "cool factor of live pan and dynamic zoom, arbitrary rotation"
> and bullet points on product brochure of SeaDragon and reject Keyhole
> because it has all those features AND photographic [not photorealistic]
> topography you can fly over? Calling Keyhole "just as cool" sounds like
> an understatement to me :-).

It probably is. I was tryin to cite an exmaple I felt was more apples to
apples in terms of how people use it, but I will grant that keyhole is
just as easy an exmaple to swap in the context of the discussion I was
trying to start.

> Keyhole doesn't need a product brochure because it already has 10,000
> clients that feature hundreds of fortune 1000 companies including
> organisations such as ABC, CNN, the UN and the US department of
> defense. They certainly think Keyhole is cool.

Oh, it is... I will easily agree with that point.

Andrei

11 Feb 2005 - 1:39am
Suresh JV
2004

Andrei:
> And I'm not
> convinced people need photo look and feel for better map applications,
> as I prefer the standard map appearance and graphics that Google Maps
> and SeaDragon provide.

May be if some one combines the best of both worlds and give us the
map UI of Google and Photo UI of A9 for the street level interaction.
[ie. show street level photograph to identify or mentally map the
area in 3D space for better driving directions or sightseeing or
whatever] I feel it would be tough for a general user to visualize
and mentally map directions from an aireal photograph unless the
camera angle is close to street level. [Correct me if I'm wrong.]
This has got something to do with that rotating option in Maps. ;)

BTW, what is the prime purpose of these map sites? Who are the target
audiences basically.

Suresh.

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