Google's 3-D Urban Maps, Built by You

Yesterday we reported that Google its competitors may be grappling to become leaders in hyper-local mapping. Google's approach: ditching map-data provider Tele-Atlas for its own super-detailed map data, some of which, the company says, will be crowdsourced. But how?

hyper-local mapping

The answer arrived today in the form of a new Google browser plug-in called Google Building Maker. It uses the guts of another Google program, three-dimensional rendering app SketchUp, and mashes it up with Google Earth to allow users to create 3-D buildings over a map of their city.

This isn't just for fun. As Google boasts in Building Maker, you are literally "helping make the world in 3-D." (Or at least, you're helping make a corporate map database in 3-D.) In other words, if you build a good-looking building and Google approves it, everyone on Google Earth will be able to see it.

Here's how it works: First, you choose a city of several dozen available worldwide. Then you use your own photos of a building to slap faces onto a 3-D shape you create with Google's tools. Once you're done, your model gets reviewed for inclusion in Earth.

Unlike SketchUp, Building Maker runs inside your browser, so it's a little lighter to use. Buildings are easy to create, tools load quickly, and submission is painless. It's clear that Google intends this to be an everyman tool, not just a hobby for map-loving developers. If building takes off, Google could have its hands on a cache of the most detailed and comprehensive on earth—and all for free.

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  • Aly-Khan Satchu

    Google has a preeminent Understanding that we have entered an Information Century and how to leverage Intellectual Capital. They are drawing on Human Capital and the quid pro quo is we individually get things like YouTube and GMAIL for free. They crowdsource and get some way ahead of the Information Curve.

    Aly-Khan Satchu
    Twitter alykhansatchu