This story is from the category Sounding the Future
Date posted: 07/11/2006
Intended to compete with the new 3D google Earth, Virtual Earth mapping software from Microsoft has been updated to include photo-realistic three-dimensional models of real buildings and other structures.
"This gives you a whole other perspective on what is there," says Virtual Earth chief architect Gur Kimchi, based in Washington State, US. "Suddenly I can see the front of a building. A lot of this was invisible before."
Kimchi adds that exploring an area in 3D, before visiting it for real could help minimise the chances of getting lost. "This is basically the end of the paper map," he claims.
The new 3D version of Virtual Earth is currently available for the following US cities: San Francisco, Seattle, Boston, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Baltimore, Dallas-Fort Worth, Atlanta, Denver, Detroit, San Jose, Phoenix and Houston. But Microsoft says it will expand to more than 100 cities internationally by the summer of 2007.
To build their 3D models, Microsoft researchers travelled around these cities in cars and planes capturing many images in rapid succession. These were automatically stamped with GPS co-ordinates. The images overlap by 90%, to ensure that each building is captured from multiple different angles. Each virtual cityscape requires approximately 10 million photos.
Software was then used to combine the images and GPS data to generate a 3D picture of each city, complete with real-life texture and colour. No matter where a user chooses to look, the landscape can be rendered for that viewpoint.
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