Google Earth software engineer tracks flights, tours and treesNewsBy Dennis Schaal | January 24, 2012Share This article was originally published on Daniel Barcay, a Google software engineer, may spend a lot of time focusing on KML markup language and loading GPS tracks of paragliding forays and ski treks into Google Earth, but he has a trace of the poet in him, as well.Based in Google's Mountain View headquarters, where he's worked for more than five years, Barcay began paragliding around the time of the 100th anniversary of flight in 2003 in his pre-Google days and soon started using Google Earth to plan his paragliding jaunts, taking into account preferred routes and wind currents as they danced sometimes violently off the mountains.Admitting that his attitude toward altitudes was a bit dicey, Barcay recalls the calming and smooth feel of his first paragliding experience."I remembered it being magical and almost like it wasn't physically possible," Barcay says.And, you can fast-forward to 2011 when Barcay says he paraglided off the side of Mont Blanc in Haute-Savoie, France, recording the GPS tracks for some of his "best flying" as he viewed "glacial canyons and heard cowbells down below."If Barcay is passionate about paragliding and, as of late, piloting small aircraft, too, he also is an evangelist for Google Earth as a geospatial canvas for storytelling and touring.Some people have e-books and tablets. Barcay may have these, as well, but he also has Google Earth as a page-turner.Over the years, Barcay has used Google Earth as a paragliding teaching tool, helping to provide a greater understanding for the "subtle art" of wind, for example."You need to understand the shape of the clouds and the way the wind pushes over the crests, sometimes producing dangerous rotors," he says.That sort of knowledge obviously comes in handy when paragliding around Big Sur.Barcay always has a GPS device mounted on the dashboard when paragliding, and then he later uploads the tracks into Google Earth and can use KML markup language to place information around the globe.You can see the results of using the Google Earth track feature in this YouTube video, portraying Barcay's first solo experience piloting an aircraft, from San Carlos to Salinas, California.Even before that, starting with Google Earth 5.0, a tour feature was incorporated, and it traces its origins to some of Barcay's aeronautical adventures.Here's a somewhat lengthy video (almost eight minutes) on how to record a tour in Google Earth.Barcay believes travelers and travel companies can use Google Earth to record all kinds of tours, whether it be a trip to Paris or a biking sojourn in the country.And, recording GPS tracks can be a very mobile and social experience. Here is dizzying array of GPS tracks recorded on mobile devices when a few dozen Googlers hit the ski slopes in the Lake Tahoe area and left electronic evidence metaphorically all across the mountains.Barcay is coy about his current focus in his day job, working on Google Earth and other geospatial exploits, at Google.With a background in graphic arts, Barcay does talk about the challenging computer graphics problem of modeling the world in Google Earth and marching orders to increase its realism, even down to showing "actual, leafy 3D trees."After all, there is that Joyce Kilmer poem, "Trees," written about a decade after the dawn of modern aviation, with the first line:"I think that I shall never see A poem lovely as a tree."When you are a Google software engineer and an adventurous soul with a love of the wind and the clouds, you can appreciate the importance and complexities of rendering actual, leafy 3D trees.