Jan 10

Brady Forrest

Brady Forrest

EveryScape Captures Beijing; China Can't Keep Its Geodata Locked Down Forever

Everyscape Forbidden City

Everyscape (Radar post) has added portions of Beijing to its site. Like the other cities on the site, many geo-positioned 2D images of Beijing have been 3D-ified and stitched together. If you've never been to Beijing I recommend roaming around the Forbidden City at minimum. As you roam around the city you'll be able to see where you are on a site map.

The data was captured with a DSLR on a car mount and a GPS. Their was no previous coordination with the government. They brought a translator along with them, but never had any issues. The site maps were made by Everyscape. Apparently the GPS didn't work as well as it does in the US -- not a big surprise. Mok Oh, founder and CTO, thinks that the government is loosening up during the lead-up time to the Olympics.

China wants to keep its geodata with in its borders. For example when Microsoft launched Live Maps in China they had to jump through a lot of regulatory hoops and the data is on the mainland (see my interview with project director Dr. Vincent Tao about their launch for more details).

Unfortunately for the Chinese government, they will not be able to keep their data to themselves for long. It is too easy for a company (like Everyscape) or a person (like the person who uploaded GPS traces of Shanghai to Open Street Map) to go out and collect their own geodata using common, everyday gadgets. Once the data is captured on these devices and uploaded to servers the data is free, gone from the government's restrictions. This will continue to happen, against their wishes, until they open it up and make it easier for their citizens and others to access the data.

tags: geo, web 2.0  | comments: 7   | Sphere It

Previous  |  Next

0 TrackBacks

TrackBack URL for this entry:

Comments: 7

  David Griffiths [01.10.08 06:08 AM]

I think the same will eventually be true in the UK. Here the Government owned Ordnance Survey has a virtual monopoly on mapping data and (whilst it is exceptionally high quality) it is inordinately expensive. I wrote an open source mapping tool but I was unable to do much with it because of the lack of available mapping to throw at it. Hopefully one day the government will realise that freely available datasets are actually a loss-leader. It is easier to do business with a country that you know how to get around. I suppose the ubiquity of Google earth with eventually make it a moot point, but if we don't want to switch one monopoly (the O/S) with another (Google) I hope that something gets sorted soon.

  Ken McNamara [01.11.08 02:37 AM]

I suppose it's possible the Chinese government will take this threat lying down - maybe just issue citations - like traffic tickets.

But if a little country like Burma can defy world opinion - murder and imprison it's citizens to maintain control - it seems unlikely that China is just going to roll over for this.

This will be an interesting test of how far China has really come.

  Ullrich [01.11.08 05:02 AM]

An official Chinese site that offers a similar experience is this one (Shanghai, but also other cities). The site was opened before Google Streetview and offers more features, such as annotating the buildings. A nice example of creativity coming from China.

While we're at it, a beautiful map is this one. The buildings do resemble their real counterparts. I wonder whether they were drawn by hand (cheap labor has some advantages...).

But I can see the potential of EveryScape. If everyone would be able to contribute, then such services would no longer be restricted to places selected by few but even the smallest village could become digital. This would be so interesting.

  Kurt Thearling [01.11.08 07:23 AM]

One way that this data could be enriched would be to combine it with amateur snapshots. Last summer I attented a presentation by Steve Seitz (U Washington) where took the results from a web search for photos of the Trevi fountain, and was able to combine the images into a fairly complete montage of the area. He's working with Microsoft on a related project called Photosynth ( There are lots of pictures being taken in China, especially of top tourist destinations.

  Michael Kravic [01.13.08 09:14 AM]

very interesting ... enter and explore place "virtually" (based on real data) that are normally forbidden. but whats about copyrights? for example if you shot pictures of a building and the government have not allowed it? for privacy sure no big problem but it can be a problem if you made your data public...

  ilyas [01.14.08 02:56 AM]

Yeah Chinese are really into not letting others to get into china, but they are spread all around the world. Well i feel they must be more social with fellow countries.

  Hanna in Beijing [03.15.08 12:10 AM]

Really impressed by EveryScape - just toured around JuYongGuan and Kerry Center and yes, it was just like being there !

Post A Comment:

 (please be patient, comments may take awhile to post)

Type the characters you see in the picture above.