Google’s “3D Imagery” has finally arrived in the largest city in the United States — New York!
As with other cites that have this new imagery, it looks stunning from the air but looks blocky when you get down low.
In all of the cities we’ve seen so far, flat surfaces like roads simply aren’t flat. That’s likely due to the fact that streets are covered with vehicles when the imagery is captured, but it makes for poor viewing in Google Earth. Over time I expect this flaw will be remedied by Google, perhaps when combined with Street View imagery to get better-looking roads and facades.
In fact, the lifelike facades that Google added back in 2010 were one of my favorite features as they made cities really come to life! New York in particular was absolutely amazing with those facades, as it made it very realistic. Now those facades are gone and it’s quite a mess when you dive down to street-level view. As an example, below are two pictures of Times Square using the old and new imagery:
It’s really kind of sad. However, I see this as being similar to the early days of the digital camera. Some people laughed at them because they were so inferior to standard cameras in terms of quality, but the technology was the difference and the quality caught up. Google’s bet seems to be that their techniques for the 3D Imagery will improve over time and make it worthwhile. Plus, they’re clearly going to keep pushing Street View so I’d be surprised if the two don’t meet up again at some point in the future. Using the 3D Imagery to create the models and then applying Street View imagery to smooth things out at the ground level could work very well.
For now, enjoy the scenic New York skyline but switch back to “legacy 3D buildings” (under [Tools] –> [Options]) if you want to zoom in close.