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New Modeling Algorithms Bring More Detail to Google Earth's 3-D World

timothy posted about 2 years ago | from the astounding-stuff dept.

Google 64

An anonymous reader writes "Google Earth has featured (some) textured 3D buildings and 3D terrain since 2006. New image-based modeling algorithms that process 45-degree Aerial Images automatically, however, will allow Google Earth to display entire 3D cities with fully texture-mapped, accurately modeled 3 dimensional buildings, roads, trees and landscaping/terrain. This YouTube video released by Google shows how effective the technique is at capturing urban areas in 3D. The resulting 3D cities look almost like a high-altitude view of a fully modeled 3D city in games like Grand Theft Auto."

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Integrate into a map? (1)

Kergan (780543) | about 2 years ago | (#40266909)

It would be nice if this got merged with Street View and Google Maps.

Re:Integrate into a map? (4, Insightful)

MojoRilla (591502) | about 2 years ago | (#40266933)

I think that's the plan. Google Maps now has a new mode called MapsGL which uses hardware accelerated 3d. Why add 3d to the browser if you didn't plan to use it.

Mobile devices (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40267397)

On the video's description it was said:

"we'll begin adding 3D models to entire metropolitan areas to Google Earth on mobile devices in the near future"
(Emphasis mine)

Maps are perhaps used more on mobile devices, so it makes sense to support them first. A bit disappointing in any case.

Other posters have noted that Nokia and MS already have tech like this working on normal browsers, though Nokia at least want to install a plugin. I'm not willing to do that. Have enough plugins.

Re:Integrate into a map? (1)

AssholeMcGee (2521806) | about 2 years ago | (#40272807)

The term GTA makes my eyes perk up, I have felt for years that Rock Star games still is a innovator when it comes to pushing the edge of graphics. Not only graphics that but game play itself. I know geeks do not play the game (maybe they do) but the company has been ignored for years. This is not a surprise, however I wonder what took google so long to use this? Its been around for sometime...

Re:Integrate into a map? (1)

Eponymous Hero (2090636) | about 2 years ago | (#40288947)

there are better examples of innovating great graphics than GTA and Rockstar Games, but i agree they do an awesome job. RDR was gorgeous.

Re:Integrate into a map? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40267053)

They're starting with mobile Google Earth. They haven't said when or how, only that it'll eventually make its way to desktops.

Google panicing about apple? (2)

goombah99 (560566) | about 2 years ago | (#40268339)

C3 already was doing this a couple years ago. Apple bought C3, and we've heard nothing more. But there is a rumor Apple is going to debut the 3D maps next week on iphones. Google annoiuncing progress on their developments in this area sounds like a pre-emptive publicity strike from google to blunt the Apple first.

Re:Google panicing about apple? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40271015)

It does sound like they're worried about Apple's mapping technology. If they were confident, they'd announce a month after apple, and upstage whatever apple did.

Simulator (1)

EthanV2 (1211444) | about 2 years ago | (#40266953)

Now someone needs to make a driving simulator based on this technology. Imagine, being able to play GTA in your own town or city!

Re:Simulator (1)

siddesu (698447) | about 2 years ago | (#40266967)

Going out for a drive has no appeal anymore?

Re:Simulator (2)

mwvdlee (775178) | about 2 years ago | (#40266995)

Not really.

But GTA has stealing cars and killing people in it, I guess that would be more fun in real life.

Re:Simulator (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about 2 years ago | (#40268991)

You know someone will use this to create a GTA rip-off based on real cities, and then someone else will blame it for the next random murder spree.

Re:Simulator (1)

Eponymous Hero (2090636) | about 2 years ago | (#40288963)

it's funny how when you free roam GTA for several hours and then go driving IRL you have to stop yourself from ramming full speed into cops.

Re:Simulator (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40267305)

Fuel has become far too expensive for the simple pleasure drive.

Sketchup supplanted (5, Interesting)

Attila the Bun (952109) | about 2 years ago | (#40266971)

...which explains why Google recently disposed of its 3D drawing tool, Sketchup. With the rise of algorithms like Photosynth it was inevitable that hand-drawn features would be superseded by automatic analysis. I just hope that Sketchup or tools like it remain available for drawing features which don't exist (yet). Of course there are plenty of 3D CAD programs available, but for those of us who aren't professional draughtsmen, few approach the ease-of-use that Sketchup has.

Re:Sketchup supplanted (1)

FireFury03 (653718) | about 2 years ago | (#40267175)

Of course there are plenty of 3D CAD programs available, but for those of us who aren't professional draughtsmen, few approach the ease-of-use that Sketchup has.

I've yet to find any vaguely competent free 3D CAD software for Linux...

Re:Sketchup supplanted (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40267229)

FreeCAD isn't that bad. It's a pain in the ass to use, but it's a free software 3D CAD program that mostly works.

Re:Sketchup supplanted (2)

Tough Love (215404) | about 2 years ago | (#40267277)

FreeCAD isn't that bad. It's a pain in the ass to use, but it's a free software 3D CAD program that mostly works.

Beat me to it. It's based on OpenCascade, a mature BREP library with impressive capabilities. Their plan is apparently to get the back end working well first, then pretty up the interface.

Re:Sketchup supplanted (1)

k(wi)r(kipedia) (2648849) | about 2 years ago | (#40267385)

I've yet to find any vaguely competent free 3D CAD software for Linux...

It depends on what you mean by CAD and competent (a word I'd normally reserve for people not software).

If by CAD you mean designs good enough for a "maker" [wikipedia.org] project, then Blender should be enough. There's also FreeCAD [wikipedia.org]. However if you're looking for something you can use as the plan for a skyscraper then, no, not even SketchUp will do. Not even AutoCAD and other expensive industrial-strength software will do if you're not a professional architect competent not just in the software but in the design of buildings.

Re:Sketchup supplanted (1)

Timmmm (636430) | about 2 years ago | (#40271181)

Haha if you think blender can do CAD, you've obviously never used real CAD software. I wish it weren't the case, but currently nothing (including FreeCAD) comes even close to Solidworks. Trust me, I have used all of the following programs:

* FreeCAD - Yeah, not useful.
* HeeksCAD - Sadly also not useful.
* Solidworks - Amazingly amazing. But Windows only, and there is no way to get it for a sane amount of money other than piracy.
* Pro/Engineer - Very good, but a shit interface (Motif!). It used to have Linux support but recently they stopped that and I think updated the interface. And it's called something else now. But if you're going to use something on Windows I don't see why you wouldn't use Solidworks.
* QCad - This is worse than a pencil and paper. I am not joking.
* Sketchup - Yeah, not very useful because it isn't parametric. Once you have set the length of something you can't alter it precisely. Seriously if you've ever used Solidworks or Pro/E you'll be tearing your hair out.
* Creo Co/Create Modelling Personal Edition Lite Free... Ah fuck it. I can never remember the (retarded) name, but this is the only decent free CAD software in existence. Unfortunately it is Windows only (doesn't run in wine), and also non-parametric, so not very useful in practice. (But it is still miles better than Sketchup.) Actually I think they sued sketch-up (or vice versa) because they use the same extrusion interface.

By the way, don't be fooled by fancy screenshots of models like this one: http://sourceforge.net/apps/mediawiki/free-cad/index.php?title=File:Screenshot-gcad.jpg [sourceforge.net]
  - those are just imported from other programs.

Re:Sketchup supplanted (1)

k(wi)r(kipedia) (2648849) | about 2 years ago | (#40271649)

Haha if you think blender can do CAD, you've obviously never used real CAD software.

You've obviously cherry-picked my comment, especially the part about "depends on what you mean by CAD" (Computer Assisted Design). Blender is "good enough" to prototype a design you wouldn't stake your life and probably your salary on, i.e. DIY stuff (which is what I said). Of course for serious design where you can get sued for failure, Blender is like a kitchen knife to a surgeon.

Re:Sketchup supplanted (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40270227)

You're not looking very hard. There are tons of amature projects and many commercial offers, many free with various restrictions. Seriously, your comment implies you've not seriously looked at all.

Nice (2)

Arancaytar (966377) | about 2 years ago | (#40266977)

Maybe I'll care once they start using imagery under ten years old over my city. It'd be nice if the buildings that have been torn down and replaced in the meantime were photographed before the new buildings are torn down too.

Re:Nice (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40267013)

Pics or it didn't happen.

Bing had that for years. (0, Troll)

NoZart (961808) | about 2 years ago | (#40266981)

For a change, MS was first.

Re:Bing had that for years. (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40267033)

No, they didn't. Bing has aerial photography, but that's not what this is about. This is about aerial photography processed into a 3D world.

Re:Bing had that for years. (2)

NoZart (961808) | about 2 years ago | (#40267195)

for selected citys, Bing hast 3d textured models for a long time. Using the same tech, 45 degree aerial photography using airplane mounted hires cams.

Re:Bing had that for years. (2)

NoZart (961808) | about 2 years ago | (#40267207)

i mean, they used the aerial photography to model the terrain and texture them.

somehow i cannot find the setting anymore for reference....

Re:Bing had that for years. (0)

phonewebcam (446772) | about 2 years ago | (#40267131)

Re:Bing had that for years. (1)

BasilBrush (643681) | about 2 years ago | (#40267659)

I'm no fan of Microsoft, but that accusation is weak. It tails off at the end with a lack of explanation about how Microsoft are doing it, even though they managed to engineer exactly the circumstances required... installing certain software on engineers laptops and sending them out to do certain searches repeatedly.

The truth is that Microsoft's toolbar is spyware, installed with permission. It adds data to Bing by analysing ever page the user visits, and ranking the most important links for the text by what the user clicks on. EVERY PAGE, not Google's in particular.

Likewise Google get their data by analysing EVERY PAGE they can find by spidering from site to site through links.

Google know this, but don't explain it. It's just a bitch slap.

Let me get this right (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40267119)

Reality looks almost as real as synthetic imagery?

Just like Nokia? (3, Informative)

AC-x (735297) | about 2 years ago | (#40267133)

So, just like Nokia's 3D maps [nokia.com]? Or are Nokia's maps hand modelled?

Re:Just like Nokia? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40267379)

Nokia's maps are by C3 - a company that's been acquired by Nokia http://mynokiablog.com/2011/10/31/now-apple-owns-c3-the-folks-behind-nokia-maps-3d-what-happens-now/

Re:Just like Nokia? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40268521)

still the same concept though

Imagine what the military have! (3, Insightful)

G3ckoG33k (647276) | about 2 years ago | (#40267141)

If this is the consumer grade version, imagine what the military have, and must have had for years.

This is impressive technology, even if it has been done before!

That's nothing. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40267167)

I'm sure the Aliens have even better maps of our world. Present, AND way in the past.

Re:Imagine what the military have! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40267307)

Wouldn't it be nice to believe that the military spent money and got workable solutions in exchange and just weren't telling us about them because they're double secret.

Theres are reason that the button doesn't get pushed very often. Sometime the light doesn't go on.

Re:Imagine what the military have! (2)

advocate_one (662832) | about 2 years ago | (#40267347)

they haven't got it, because if they had, then I would be writing software for it right now... This is way ahead of what we currently have for battle training systems. Currently, the models have to be hand generated.

Re:Imagine what the military have! (1)

heson (915298) | about 2 years ago | (#40267923)

They do have. Projects like this are spin offs from UAV software. But they are not very far ahead.

Re:Imagine what the military have! (1)

nurb432 (527695) | about 2 years ago | (#40269373)

They to, but if you really worked for the government you would know this. But then again, if you did work for them and leaked how far advanced we really are, you wouldn't be working for them much longer.

Re:Imagine what the military have! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40267417)

I remember doing my military service in the Swedish army staff school (Battalion level and higher) in Enköping in 1989/90. There were a voluntary project involving manually digitizing maps using a CAD tablet with a 16 button rat. The software ran on a Unix workstation and it was quite buggy. So I asked the officer in charge, a major, why they didn't use the raw data from the National Land Survey of Sweden (Lantmäteriet) since I were pretty sure the data were already vectorized and layered. He didn't answer my question, but later the same week they removed the workstation.

Re:Imagine what the military have! (1)

timeOday (582209) | about 2 years ago | (#40268289)

It's this [topscene.com]

TOPSCENE technology rapidly processes and converts terrain elevation information, two-dimensional imagery, and sensor information from multiple sources into an interactive, 3D visualization of the warfighter's mission operating environment. This makes it possible to train on actual terrain and in near-real time.

The thing is, it's realllly expensive to have something like this for a relatively small number of people to use. And I'm pretty sure it's more dependent on direct elevation sensing (e.g. SAR) compared to the image-based techniques google is using. I'm sure whatever google puts out will luck much slicker, because defense software has so many other requirements besides looking good (e.g. accurately stimulating night vision goggles, realistic visual ranges due to atmospheric effects, integrating with other simulation components, etc).

And, frankly, the defense industry cannot compete with silicon valley in paying top dollar to acquire companies with necessary technologies and salaries that draw top talent. In hot areas like computer security it's basically a training ground where people start off for a few years before being snatched away by higher-paying employers.

Re:Imagine what the military have! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40268789)

Just for reference, back in the late 90s on an independent study course, I was doing work in 3d modelling of medical data on unix. There were some guys in my lab who were taking 2 microwave scanners and rebuilding objects in 3d. This was just some small research in a small lab in a state school. I can only imagine what actual researchers are doing these days.

You don't have to imagine, wait for Monday (1)

SuperKendall (25149) | about 2 years ago | (#40270489)

If this is the consumer grade version, imagine what the military have,

Apple last year bought C3 Technologies [youtube.com], which was a spinoff of the Sweedish company Saab, which was used for military aircraft.

All of the videos you can find on the web are from around a year ago. Imagine what might come out of marrying the military technology with some manipulation enhancements from Apple...

The thing is I'm not sure that technology is that much better than what Google has, as far as rendering and storing the world... the place the military may be ahead is in speed of capture (it seems like speed of capture was one of the things C3 was touting, we have no info on how long Googles process takes but they are adept at parallel commotion so probably not much longer).

Re:Imagine what the military have! (1)

sootman (158191) | about 2 years ago | (#40270947)

The military has a simpler system: 1) bomb it 'till it's flat, 2) don't bother to take pictures.

Re:Imagine what the military have! (1)

DarthVain (724186) | about 2 years ago | (#40286541)

Because government is always ahead of private industry in creating cutting edge software!


Many people seem to thing government secret technology is like that used in the movie "Enemy of the State".

I really doubt it. There might be a few things technology wise that they might be ahead of the curve, likely military, and likely so expensive it wasn't even worth considering, so unless you are a wealthy nation not worth implementing anyway (and obsolete in a year or two anyway).

I think the rate technology has advanced in recent years, it is impossible for governments to keep up, let alone lead the bleeding edge. I think for the most part they have recognized this and have simply adopted commercial products where possible except for a few niche areas.

I fail to see how this helping to find something (1)

Pecisk (688001) | about 2 years ago | (#40267359)

Again commercial map vendors are battling with bling and shiny, not actually hiqh quality data. I guess it is path of less resistance (and marketing dep are happy).

Re:I fail to see how this helping to find somethin (1)

R3d M3rcury (871886) | about 2 years ago | (#40271441)

I gotta admit, this is one thing I wonder about.

Don't get me wrong--I've used Google Earth and entered bike rides that I've gone on. It was pretty cool to do the fly-along view and I can see where this would be really fun for the first few times.

The problem is that if I'm actually trying to navigate around a city, there will be two problems. Either the camera will be positioned so that I can't see where I'm supposed to turn because some building is in the way, or the camera is going to be sweeping around like crazy, causing a distraction when I'm driving.

So, cool? Definitely. Useful for navigation--which is what the vast majority of map users are doing? Not so much.

Like has been implied, about the only use I see for something like this is in games. Random driving game on the real streets of Los Angeles/New York/Miami/Cleveland? Very cool.

midwest and southern cities? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40267655)

I'd like to see how this performs in places lie the suburbs of atlanta or some cities in kentucky where tress are all over the place occluding most everything.

resolution (1)

NerdmastaX (1749114) | about 2 years ago | (#40268251)

i think the reason for putting mobile first is to hide the conversion quality as they finish processing the images. by the time desktop earth gets updated they should be through with their inital rollout, just my 2 cents. (i wouldnt wanna be the one in charge of processing trillions of images.)

Does anyone actually use this shit? (1)

melted (227442) | about 2 years ago | (#40271375)

Does anyone actually use this shit? I didn't use 3D maps before, and I don't plan on starting. I just don't see the value I guess, aside from the novelty factor.

Whee..! Better internet tourism.. (1)

doccus (2020662) | about 2 years ago | (#40275573)

I'm housebound, essentially, any dreams of being able to travel are as unlikely as dreams of waking up to find out I'm "Gill Bates" (or is that a nightmare ;-) Googlemaps /Streetview /Earth has given me the ability to travel intercontinentally , with no TSA "patdowns' I might add ;-)
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