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Virtual Earth 3D

I've been playing around with Virtual Earth 3D, and at least when it comes to flying through realistic 3D models of major US metropolitan areas, Microsoft has gone into the lead over Google Earth. You have to install an Internet Explorer plugin, which isn't so bad when you consider that Google Earth is a separate application and didn't have a Mac client for quite awhile. Once you install it, I've enjoyed easily switching between map, satellite, birds-eye, and 3D views.  For some reason I am getting SimCity flashbacks.

There's room for improvement. The zoom controls are very wonky: 3 out of the 7 zoom levels launch you into outer space and it loses track of where you are on the map! Their attempt at incorporating virtual billboards into the models is also fairly crude (see screenshots below) and they are still missing models for some very landmark buildings (e.g. Prudential Center and Fenway Park in Boston). Nevertheless, this delivers one of the best out-of-the-box 3D mapping experiences for this sort of software (i.e. Google Earth), and it seems that Microsoft made very good choices in acquiring Vexcel and Geotango to make this all work.

San Jose: nice model of the new Richard Meier City Hall building, but what's that weird spec over the hills? Why, it's one of Microsoft's floating billboard ads in the middle of nowhere!

San Francisco: When I last checked Google Earth, you couldn't get a good model of the Transamerica without downloading custom models (a pain, really). Virtual Earth 3D includes nice models of the Transamerica and Coit Tower, but I don't seem to recall a large floating orange billboard atop the Transamerica.

Boston: Impressive model of the Christian Science Church Park and Hancock building, but what's a Boston skyline without the Pru (Prudential Center, large flat area just above church)?

More info: * O'Reilly Radar on 'Spaceland' preview * Windows Live Local blog

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This page contains a single entry from kwc blog posted on November 9, 2006 11:59 AM.

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