I’m sure that there many people who have attempted to find their own house or look for glimpses of themselves or someone they know doing jumping jacks on Google Earth. Admittedly, I’ve tried many times but always failed. Now however, a new startup called UrtheCast has teamed with the International Space Station (ISS) to simulate a HD view of what it would be like if you were on the space station with a massive telescope pointed at planet Earth.


UrtheCast will apparently use HD cameras which are currently being built to stream video in almost real time 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. Once the cameras as completed, they will be shipped off to the Russian Federal Space Agency which will be handling the deployment and mounting of the HD cameras on the ISS. The startup claims that this effort would symbolize the first time that the planet is being filmed and regular people can watch the stream in almost real time.

The ISS orbits around earth around 15 times a day and the cameras will be rolling at all times, the subsequent footage is downloaded as it is filmed to ground stations where it is streamed through the startup’s website, www.urthecast.com. The cameras will apparently allow users to see graphics with details as small as one meter wide. Scott Larson who is one of the co-founders of UrtheCast says that the company expects the mounted HD cameras to pick up footage every second for about five to ten years.

With regards to the financial needs of the company, UrtheCast has put together a feasible three-pronged plan. Firstly, the company intends to use the innovation to exploit advertisements. As the ISS orbits planet earth, viewers will be privileged to a schedule of the streaming feed and consequently, they’ll know where it will be next and when it will be there. Advertisers can place big objects in an open area or perhaps even a QR code top of a building that can highlight products or services all around the world in nearly real time. Secondly, the startup intends on selling higher quality images and video to companies involved in mining and agriculture which is in demand due to the nature of the work those companies do. Lastly, UrtheCast has plans to release an API to the application and game developers which will probably open up a plethora of options and fantastic ideas.

To make the information sourcing just a little easier, the company also plans to utilize content that is generated by users at with their consent. For example if the ISS is currently orbiting over the White House, the information available about the iconic building will be substantiated by pictures taken by users who have agreed to let UrtheCast use them. It is just an assumption that if you have already agreed to let your photos be shared by the startup, every time you upload a geo-tagged photo online the company might use it if it fits what they are trying to describe to online viewers of the stream.

Since the service is not up and orbiting as yet, the company has tried to simulate the experience that will be provided with a video of a flash mob in San Francisco (embedded above). The flash mob was filmed with cameras on helicopters and according to UrtheCast, it gives users a little taste of what to expect. For now, since the cameras are just in the midst of being built, it should still be awhile until the project officially takes off, but when it does, do join me for a bout of jumping jacks out on the lawn.

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