Explore Google Earth one squiggle at a time

This fun code experiment transforms aimless doodles into satellite imagery pulled from Google Earth.

Explore Google Earth one squiggle at a time

Created by artist and researcher Zach Lieberman, Land Lines invites you to draw a simple gesture, then watch it automatically pull up an analogous stretch of coastline, or hedgerow, or motorway.

“Satellite images provide a wealth of visual data from which we can visualise in interesting ways,” explains Lieberman. “Land Lines is an experiment that lets you explore Google Earth satellite imagery through gesture.”


Made in collaboration with creative coder Matt Felsen and Google’s Data Arts team, the tool comes with two modes. The first, called ‘Draw’, matches lines to satellite images. The second, called ‘Drag’, instead creates overlapping connections between images, to create infinite lines that jump across rivers, roads and beaches.LandLines_drag.gif

To make Land Lines, Lieberman and his team used a combination of open-source libraries, optimised algorithms and machine learning, to identify images, find matches in real-time and redraw 2D WebGL graphics.

It’s a cool tool to play around with, and shows the potential for users to sift through a vast reservoir of images using gesture. I’m not sure how practical searching a map using squiggly lines would be on a day-to-day basis, but it’s a great way to spend a few minutes in the office. You can try it for yourself here.  

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