Google today launched Kartta Labs, an open source, scalable system on Google Cloud and Kubernetes that reconstructs what cities looked like in the past from historical maps and photos. Available as a suite of tools, Kartta creates a map with an explorable timeline, allowing users to populate dates with historically accurate information.

Kartta Labs was first introduced last year during the International Workshop on AI for Geographic Knowledge Discovery. According to the creators, the motivation is to organize the world’s historical maps while making them accessible and useful. Historical maps, which can help to identify cultural and social trends, are an invaluable resource not only for civic research but for planning and outreach. Over a decade ago, former vice president Al Gore used Google Earth historical imagery to show the melting of the polar ice caps.

Other efforts to…

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