Satellite images have mapped every visible surface of the Earth in immense detail. Using that as the raw data for an intriguing experiment, developers Zach Lieberman and Matt Felsen developed an intriguing project which lets you draw any shaped line you want in your web browser and have it magically matched up to an identical river, highway or coastline somewhere in the world.
There is also a “drag” option, making it possible for users to follow a never-ending road which traces its way along curves and patterns across the entire globe.
Called Land Lines, the results are pretty much a fun time waster — which, of course, is nothing you’d be interested in during the last working day before the holidays. However, there is something undeniably hypnotic and addictive about the concept.
The interesting part about Land Lines is the computer science behind it, though. It was created using a combination of OpenCV Structured Forests and ImageJ’s Ridge Detection, which analyzes and identifies the dominant visual lines in a database of more than 50,000 images.
The satellite images are taken from Google Earth and — through a combination of machine learning, data optimization, and graphics card power — these can be quickly searched in your web browser without you having to sit around all day waiting for a match for your doodle to be found in some obscure stretch of beach in Madagascar.
If you want to find out more about the project from this perspective, you can do so at this page, where Lieberman and Felson lay out some of their secrets, or over on GitHub where they make the source code available.
Now if you will excuse us, we have to get back to drawing wiggly lines that look like a river in Florida … we mean, finishing a really important spreadsheet about something business-related.