Patent Filing on Interactive Elements of Google’s Keyhole Markup Language

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If you’re a Google Earth fan, or just want to get a better idea of what might be happening behind the scenes at Google Earth, a newly published patent application takes a close look at the KML (Keyhole Markup Language) used by Google Earth, and interactive aspects of how that markup language works.

The patent filing includes topics such as how 3D objects may incrementally stream into view as you “fly” around the world. It also discusses the entrance of remote content into the Geographic Information System (GIS), such as airplane location data, traffic information, UPS package tracking. Another interesting kind of search is also presented:

Relational searching is also enabled. For instance, in response to user entering “diet,” show location of hospitals, exercise clubs, Jamba Juice, Whole foods, etc. An auto zoom features shows location of all relevant hits.

Relational Web Search is similar to question answering in some ways, in that it finds things (specific places for instance) that are related in some way, but not in an obvious manner from a standard web-based inverted index, like which businesses or locations in a certain area might be related based upon a query like “diet.”

Here’s the patent filing:

Markup Language for Interactive Geographic Information System
Inventors: John Rohlf, Bent Hagemark, Brian McClendon, Michael T. Jones;
Assigned to Google
US Patent Application 20080016472
Published January 17, 2008
Filed: June 12, 2007


Data-driven guarded evaluation of conditional-data associated with data objects is used to control activation and processing of the data objects in an interactive geographic information system.

Methods of evaluating conditional-data to control activation of the data objects are disclosed herein. Data-structures to specify conditional data are also disclosed herein.

It appears that many of the tags that are written about in the patent application are described in more detail in Google’s old KML 2.1 Reference, rather than in the KML 2.2 Reference. But it is worth a look if you want to get more of a hint of why some things in Google Earth are set up the way that they are.

Some of the very newest of Google Earth features (Sky Data, Custom Data, Photo Overlays, Camera) aren’t included, but there’s some coverage of the older code.

Some other Google Earth patent filings:

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