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Google's Map Dive takes us on a virtual skydive across seven instances of Chrome (video)

Tim Stevens
05.15.13
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During Google's extended edition opening keynote this morning, there was a distinctive lack of skydiving. However, developers showed off lots of interesting things, including functionality highlighting the easy, real-time syncing of data across multiple instances of the Chrome browser -- whether on smartphone or tablet or desktop. The on-stage demo was a simple slot car racing game but, out on the I/O floor Google had a somewhat more advanced implementation: Map Dive. Running on seven separate instances of Chrome and relying on a 3D camera, Map Dive lets you experience the Maps API from a rather elevated perspective. Join us after the break for an arm-waving demo.

Gallery: Map Dive at Google I/O | 22 Photos

The system actually runs on nine Linux-powered machines that are connected to each other only over the network. Seven of these computers output over HDMI to seven LCD monitors, one each, oriented vertically and mounted bezel-to-bezel, plus one server and one head node. Atop the panoramic sweep of displays is the all-seeing eye of an ASUS Xtion PRO 3D camera, which provides depth-sensing ala Microsoft's Kinect. The information from that is fed into the Map Dive application on the central computer, which then communicates to the other six instances to render the results.

It's a bit complicated, but suffice to say this is all happening in-browser and it's all built on top of Google's Maps API. Thanks to this you can skydive over a variety of real-world locations, like Moscow, the Black Rock Desert (annual site of Burning Man) and even Hobbiton in New Zealand. Wave your arms to control your descent and the parachute automatically deploys when you get close to the ground, so you'll always land damage-free. We can't make any guarantees about your dignity, however.

Brad Molen contributed to this report.

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