I received the following E-mail from the Khronos Group which is a member funded organization to help define open standards for APIs to communicate all kinds of information. Part of the announcement that Google Earth V4 supports 3D models with textures is that 3D models now support the Collada format.. This is a significant move. Here’s the E-mail which explains a bit of the reason why:
COLLADA is an open standard for that defines an XML-based schema for 3D authoring applications to freely exchange digital assets without loss of information. http://www.khronos.org/collada
If you check out the textured 3D sample file in their KML 2.1tutorials
you will see that they include both the COLLADA .dae file and the textures in a compressed zip file. They add the geospecific data in their own xml file.
Why this is so interesting is this means you can use any of the popular 3D modeling applications including Maya, SoftImage|XSI, 3ds Max, Blender, and Sketchup of course, to create sophisticated models with textures, export them as COLLADA, and then import or drag and drop them into Google Earth.
Combined with the new KML support for LOD and streaming, you have some pretty high performance 3D visualization capabilities.
What is also interesting is that this means game developers can now start using their assets in Google Earth (the Sony PS3 will actually be based on Collada). IMHO it does not seem far off when this will enable Google Earth to beome the new Second Life but with true geospatial capabilities.
At this point, Google Earth has not implemented support for animation, shaders or physics. But these are supported in the COLLADA format., so it is likely only a matter of time.
Hope this is interesting news for you. I’m pretty excited about the whole thing.