Governor Edward G. Rendell announced Monday that Pennsylvania will become the first state in the nation to capitalize on the Google Earth platform by using a new, cutting-edge technology to make tourism an interactive experience from anywhere in the world.

The Governor said the state will provide a $285,000 grant to support an unprecedented partnership between Google Earth, Carnegie Mellon University, NASA, the Pennsylvania Tourism Office and the National Civil War Museum that will allow 'virtual tourists' from all corners of the globe to immerse themselves in Pennsylvania's Civil War trails.

Working together, the partners will develop an infrastructure to display and promote Pennsylvania's Civil War trails as a travel destination and enhance community engagement in emerging interactive technologies.

"Pennsylvania's tourism industries account for nearly 600,000 jobs throughout the commonwealth," said Rendell. "This project presents an opportunity for the commonwealth to establish itself as an industry leader by developing and integrating a geographic and visual representation of our historic destinations.

"As a result, this project will further promote Pennsylvania as a tourist destination, increase visitation and expenditures, and could potentially be applied in support of other applications throughout Pennsylvania. Those who use this technology could see a panoramic view along a trail, zoom in to read the inscription on a Civil War monument, or go back in time to witness the change of seasons on a historic battlefield.

"While this is truly exciting stuff for heritage tourism enthusiasts, it also means a great deal for our state's economy. The investment we're making today will accelerate the adoption and use of technology, including the use of interactive marketing for tourism, which will drive regional economic development," Governor Rendell continued.

Google Earth technology provides for a visual display of information about a specific location. Building on this platform, the Pennsylvania Tourism Office will incorporate a new technology developed through the Global Connections Project, a partnership that includes CMU, Google and NASA's Ames Research Center.

Known as Gigapan -- short for Gigapixel Panoramas -- the technology combines thousands of digital images to create a panoramic image in excess of one billion pixels. When combined with time-lapse, users can explore the space through time as well.

Online visitors will also be able to access specific tourism data helping travelers better visualize a destination of interest.

The grant announced today is being provided through the Ben Franklin Technology Development Authority, which is dedicated to fostering technological innovation, strengthening the commonwealth's economy, and creating and retaining good-paying jobs that require advanced skills.

The National Civil War Museum, Carnegie Mellon University, Google, Ripple Effects Interactive, Public Intelligence, and the PA Tourism Office are collaborating to highlight the commonwealth's Civil War Trails region on Google Earth. This historic project will:

  • Promote travel to increase visitation and expenditures in Pennsylvania and to enable communities of travelers to share information regarding specific destinations throughout the commonwealth
  • Enhance the collaborative and cultural significance of Google Earth -- connecting people through a unique interface
  • Develop an infrastructure using the Google Application Programming Interface (API) that will allow other Destination Marketing Organizations (DMOs) to properly share their tourism data and display it uniformly on Google Earth; and
  • Outline a viable revenue model by tying advertising to the tourism data supplied by the DMOs. This revenue model must benefit the Tourism Office, Google and Carnegie Mellon.