Google is offering up Web-based tools to citizens that would help move forward the company’s ambitious plans to have 3D representations of every building in the world.
Philadelphia is one of 50 cities worldwide and just 21 in the United States that are part of the first wave of Google Building Maker, as the program was described in a company release from yesterday. Building Maker is a way to create geo-located 3D models of buildings that would be visible in Google Earth, with the intention of creating an impressively detailed Web atlas, though criticism already surrounds, as always, the heavy reliance on free citizen labor.
After navigating to Building Maker on a computer with the latest version of Google Earth installed, the user chooses any building from one of those 50 cities where modeling is currently possible, a total that also includes Atlanta, Seattle, Denver, San Francisco and Chicago. Whether the building already been created or not, the user matches Google’s ‘smart blocks’ to create the most accurate representation of the structure, as seen from Google-offered images taken from a variety of different aerial angles.
When those blocks are matched with the building’s images, Building Maker generates a photo-textured 3D model of that building for Google Earth. If the user deems his model worthy enough, it can be saved online in the Google 3D Warehouse, to be reviewed for use in Google Earth, where, if approved, it would appear in the 3D Buildings layer with a credit given. Users need a Gmail account to submit to the warehouse.
Naturally, some of the dialogue has already circled around a common complaint of crowdsourcing: free labor. Google is creating an awe-inspiring, interactive Web atlas — allowing anyone with highspeed Internet to see every corner of a Center City highrise — but is intending on doing so with a great deal of help from its user base.-30-