Building the world, one building at a time

If you have played around a little bit in Google Earth, you most likely noticed the 3D Buildings layer. This layer contains textured 3d models of buildings in many cities on earth. Knowing Google, their aim is most likely to get a full coverage of the surface of the planet.

However, in order to fulfill this vision, they will need data. Lots of it. When they bought SketchUp, it was quickly integrated in order to be able to feed 3D data (semi) directly in Google Earth. This was good, but the learning curve was still quite steep, despite being miles away in front of Maya and 3Ds Max

Last month, they released Building Maker, a simple tool to build (simple) 3d models from photos and export them directly to Google Earth. As with other Google tools, the beauty of the tool resides in its simplicity.

The process is straightforward: the user is asked to fit simple geometrical primitives (such as boxes, different kinds of rooves, even a vertical offset of a polyline) onto aerial pictures taken from different angles. With enough constraint points on corners of the building from different viewpoints, the building blocks will be positioned in space. But the cool part is that the faces of the building are automatically textured from the aerial pictures.

Net result? My first building, albeit a very simple one, was modeled and textured in about 5 minutes.

With this kind of ease of use and accessibility, it will be tempting to go modelize your own neighborhood, your workplace, etc. They managed to hide all the maths and complexity behind a quick and easy interface which will allow pretty much everybody to be able to jump in and start to work. Have I heard the words Democratizing 3D somewhere recently?

Article written by Creaform

Comments about this article


I will only appreciate the building maker tool , if some stupic guys dont spam gearth. Otherways, its very easy to make replica or great monuments. Well, the layers have added Google earth functionality to a great extent. The other day, i saw Google Earth Games , now wonder what else is left with google earth.

Julien Marchand

Hi Ryan, This is exactly why Google reviews the buildings before adding them in Google Earth. As far as I can see, they are quite strict in terms of what goes into GEarth. I've had already 1 building refused because of incomplete texturing, so it shows that Google is keeping a close eye on what goes into their software. You can see the acceptance criteria here:

Julien Marchand

It works well, I have my first buildings accepted today in Google Earth. With the Google Earth plugin installed, this building is my nicest realization so far. We must note that when it gets to complex buildings like this one, the software slows down quite a bit when you drag the vertices around. Overall, it's not perfect, but it works surprisingly well...!

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