In classic Google style, the popular 3D modeling program SketchUp has now been made a free downloadable application. There’s a SketchUp Pro available for $495 with more features. Google just purchased SketchUp in mid-March, and many people speculated they would make a free version . I don’t think many people expected them to announce a free version less than 6 weeks later! SketchUp is a popular application because so many people in the 3D modeling community have raved about its ease of use for creating models. Download Sketchup now (download page says Mac version coming soon). Here’s the Official Google Blog announcement.
Why is this significant?
Well, first because SketchUp is the most popular application for creating 3D models for Google Earth. See lots of 3D models for Google Earth here. But, an even more interesting development: Google has created a database repository for 3D models called the 3D Warehouse. Not only that, but there is already a 3D Warehouse network link for letting your view models in the repository in Google Earth.
This combination of free 3D modeling application, Google Earth, and the 3D Warehouse will make for some interesting visualizations. We could certainly imagine millions of people creating 3D models and populating our Google Earth with 3D realism. However, I don’t believe the current combination will suddenly create such a new metaverse, virtual replication of our world, in Google Earth. The current version of Google Earth is not very efficient in handling large numbers of 3D models. And, Google Earth doesn’t currently support textures (the ability to add textural details to models making them look realistic). BUT, I believe Google will soon release a new version of Google Earth which WILL support textures and will probably handle 3D models much better. In fact, Google’s page here says: “You can add details, textures and glass to your models, design with dimensional accuracy, and place your finished models in Google Earth.”
I initially thought this free version of SketchUp would really excite the gaming industry. But, apparently the free version only supports output to Google Earth. You have to get the SketchUp Pro version to export to more useful file formats. However, if Google Earth suddenly becomes a lot better at displaying 3D models (textures, efficient display of lots of models), then the combination will become much more exciting. For an industry take on this announcement, check out AEC News.