[UPDATE: If you are viewing the 3D Warehouse in a different language than English, you may not see the Collada file format option for a given model. Google is still in the process of having the new site translated to other languages. Unfortunately, there’s no easy way to see the new feature unless you have your language set to English.]
Google has updated the 3D Warehouse with a significant new feature. Models in the 3D Warehouse can now be downloaded in the Collada file format (an open standard 3D file format). Collada files are supported by Google Earth. This is particularly significant because this means you now have an even faster way to bring models from the 3D Warehouse into Google Earth. The Collada files are downloaded in a Zip file. After downloading one you can simply drag the model’s DAE file from the Zip file straight into Google Earth’s Places folders and the model will be loaded on top of your current location. You can then use the gadgets for positioning and resizing the model you want to place. By the way, this process is actually faster than downloading the SketchUp file into SketchUp and then placing the model into Google Earth (there are fewer steps, and less conversions taking place).
As an example, here’s a few quick steps to getting a model from 3D Warehouse into Google Earth (Note: if the model you are looking at is already available for Google Earth, then these steps aren’t necessary):
First, find a suitable model in 3D Warehouse. I chose this nice model of a space shuttle by ‘decten’.
Select the “Download” option next to the Collada file format.
Open Google Earth and find a location to place your model. I searched for Kennedy Space Center, then moved my view over one of the launch pads.
Next open the Collada zip file downloaded and drag the file “Space Shuttle + Booster.dae” to a Places folder. The model will be transferred straight into Google Earth.
You can use the green gadgets to drag the model to a better position, and/or make the model larger or smaller. You can also use the properties window to change other features such as altitude.