Getting closer to a truly virtual world

One may of course argue we are already immersed in, and contribute to many virtual worlds, from Second Life to Facebook. But a virtual Trans-Siberian rail journey via the internet? Trans-Siberian Railway Views, a Click Away from the NY Times’ blog points to what is nothing short of an amazing collaboration between Russian Railways and Google. As Wikipedia notes,

The Trans-Siberian Railway is often associated with the main transcontinental Russiantrain that connects hundreds of large and small cities of the European and Asian parts of Russia. At 9,259 kilometres (5,753 miles), spanning a record 7 time zones and taking eight days to complete the journey, it is the third-longest single continuous service in the world.

Now, provided you have a good broadband internet connection (the video quality goes up to HD) and enough patience, you can experience the entire trip from your browser. The Moscow-Vladivostok: virtual journey on Google Maps allows you to click to any location on the rail journey and experience video of what it looks like from out of the train. You can continue your journey from there, or click on highlights.

This exciting new cartography of our contemporary world and history is driven by the near unlimited storage Google and other companies like Microsoft and Amazon have developed and invested in.

For example, demonstrated at this year’s TED, Microsoft’s new features to its Bing Maps are also nothing short of amazing. The fluidity of the platform, coupled with the seamless integration of Microsoft, user and realtime generated content is the stuff of science fiction even just a few years ago.

Aside from the cartography of longitude and latitude, rendered now over time as well, the sheer wealth of knowledge now on the web for free, from iTunes U (free podcasts and vodcasts from Ivy League Universities as well as other institutes) to Google News Timeline is mind-boggling.

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