Friday, October 16

Visualizing 3D Cities one building at a time

Philadelphia Skyline from Google Building Maker

The folks at Google have set for themselves the ambitious goal of modeling every building on earth. Rather, I should say that we have been given this challenge. On Tuesday, Google launched a new tool, Google Building Maker, that allows users to create a simple three-dimensional outline of structures and map aerial photos onto it. If Sketch-up is the powerful modeling tool, this is the quick and dirty method of populating the world's cities with complex texture. From the looks of Philadelphia this evening, only three days into it, these cities will be growing quickly. I modeled the Philadelphia Museum of Art pictured in the foreground, but someone else beat me to it. Many of the individual houses in the surrounding neighborhood are already completed.

The tool isn't perfect. Trees that obscure the sides of buildings get mapped onto the structure itself. Complex buildings with ornamentation are difficult to capture. However, Building Maker integrates nicely into Sketch-up, allowing these inconsistencies to be improved with time.