For years I've entertained a fantasy about air travel that I'm sure many of you share. You're staring out the cabin window, watching the landscape scroll tailward, and some feature catches your eye: a building, a highway, a lake, a ridge. You touch the window and a heads-up display fades into view. It's kind of like Google Earth, but live and in realtime. You summon and dismiss layers of annotation, and you bookmark locations for later study.
Some people, and Doc Searls appears to be one of the most talented among them, have carefully enough studied the view from airplane windows, and carefully enough studied maps, to be able to correlate the two domains remarkably well. But most of us could use a little help -- or, in my case, probably a lot of help.
Airplane windows that morph into heads-up displays aren't in the cards anytime soon, I'm afraid. But it strikes me that we do have at our disposal some tools that we might be able to use to cobble together at least a first approximation of a solution.
Here, for example, is the list of ingredients for a recipe that I can't try making right now, because I'm at 30,000 feet watching Texas scroll tailward:
Can these ingredients be used to bake a screencast that would play in realtime, would document the progress of your flight, and would label various natural and manmade structures along the way? If anyone's tried this, or tried a different approach, I'd be really curious to know how it turned out.
When we do finally get those heads-up displays, connected to the plane's flight systems and to the Internet, it'll be grand, won't it? I wonder how the service will be priced. Will window seats command a premium? At a flat-rate or per-minute? Adjusted for cloud cover?
Update: Drew Burton reports:
I tried something approaching the simplest form of your flight tracking just a month ago.In other words, he tried The Simplest Thing That Could Possibly Work, and it did. I can't wait to try it.
I had Microsoft Streets and Trips on my laptop with an attached GPS sensor. This is out-of-the box setup.
It reported elevation, flight speed, direction just fine.
I could zoom in and out as normal. It showed my ground location as I flew long. The application has the ability to leave a trail of where I had been.
I had been in a window seat; I attached the sensor to the window.
On the way back I was in a middle seat. From there my $99 sensor picked up nothing.
Former URL: http://weblog.infoworld.com/udell/2006/09/12.html#a1523