Visualizing Geographic and Google Search Data with the 'WebGL Globe and Search Globe'

A new Chrome Experiment called the "WebGL Globe" is now launched. It's a simple, open visualization platform for geographic data that runs in WebGL-enabled browsers like Google Chrome. The globe below shows world population:And, another globe called "Search Globe" showing Google search traffic."Search Globe visualizes searches from one day, and shows the language of the […]

A new Chrome Experiment called the "WebGL Globe" is now launched. It's a simple, open visualization platform for geographic data that runs in WebGL-enabled browsers like Google Chrome. The globe below shows world population:

WebGL World Population Globe

And, another globe called "Search Globe" showing Google search traffic.

"Search Globe visualizes searches from one day, and shows the language of the majority of queries in an area in different colors. You'll see a bright landscape of queries across Europe, and parts of Asia for instance, but unfortunately we see many fewer searches from parts of the world lacking Internet access--and often electricity as well--like Africa. We hope that as the Internet continues to become more accessible over time and people continue to ask questions, we'll see this globe shine brightly everywhere," Google informs.

WebGL Search Globe

"The primary challenge of this project was figuring out how to draw several thousand 3D data spikes as quickly and smoothly as possible. To do this, we turned to Three.js, a JavaScript library for building lightweight 3D graphics. For each data point, we generate a cube with five faces -- the bottom face, which touches the globe, is removed to improve performance. We then stretch the cube relative to the data value and position it based on latitude and longitude. Finally, we merge all of the cubes into a single geometry to make it more efficient to draw.

The second challenge of the project was animating the globe -- we wanted it to be fun for the user to manipulate. Thanks to WebGL, we're able to display thousands of moving points at high frame rates by using the user's graphics processing unit (GPU) for 3D computations," Google explained.

You can learn more about the data format (represented in JSON) and get the code here.

[Source: Google Code blog, Google blog]