[UPDATE: See YouTube video demo of these new 3D Buildings.]
Google has released a new layer (viewable with Google Earth 4 beta), which lets you view higher quality 3D Buildings – many of which are photo-textured. I highly recommend you download the new official Google Earth 4 because it loads these models much faster than the previous betas (actually, I just realized the new layer isn’t available unless you download the official version). You can now turn on a “Best of 3D Warehouse” layer under “3D Buildings” and it will automatically load high quality buildings for the area you are viewing. The layer is a network link which automatically loads 3D buildings for the city you are viewing. Only cities which have the buildings available will load. But, many major cities around the world have at least a few buildings. Above is a screenshot of New York City. You can also turn on the “Other Buildings” layer and still see the old gray 3D buildings Google Earth has always had. Although, there is no longer a conflict between the cruder gray buildings and the new higher quality buildings. They’ve removed the cruder buildings wherever a higher quality building from the new layer exists.
You can also still download the 3D Warehouse network link to find even more 3D models and select the placemark to load them up.
This new building layer is Google’s answer to Microsoft’s recent release of the Virtual Earth 3D beta with several cities worth of 3D textured buildings. Microsoft has several complete cities with textured 3D buildings. Which is pretty cool. With Google’s implementation, any one can create and add 3D buildings to the 3D Warehouse – and they may get selected to be a part of the new layer. I’m looking forward to seeing both approaches evolve over the next year.
Read about other new layers added today as well.