Google Earth V4 Supports Collada – Open Standard for 3D Models

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.
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.

About Frank Taylor

Frank Taylor started the Google Earth Blog in July, 2005 shortly after Google Earth was first released. He has worked with 3D computer graphics and VR for many years and was very impressed with this exciting product. Frank completed a 5.5 year circumnavigation of the earth by sailboat in June 2015 which you can read about at Tahina Expedition, and is a licensed pilot, backpacker, diver, and photographer.


  1. Also – today an open source tool came out to convert
    KML to X3D –
    So we now have a path from Collada via KML to X3D.
    X3D runs in a broswer plugin (there are a few to choose from – Flux is a good one for Windows available from the link above, but there are also plugins for OS X and Linux).
    You can run detailed X3D content with lighting, interactivity, bump-maps and so on inside Google Earth’s embedded web browser. It looks like everything is starting to interoperate – fantastic!

  2. I have a feeling that Spore may become the next Second Life with geospatial capabilities. The idea looks excellent behind the game.

  3. Nicolas says:

    I’m developing an export in KML/Collada for 3D models of trees. This export can contain several hundreds of trees, placed at the right place in Google Earth thanks to the KML Placemark tag. It refears to a few COLLADA models of tree I picked on the web. Unfortunately, Google Earth seems to parse each tree as if each had a different COLLADA model, whereas there are only four! I know it is possible to manage a scene tree in COLLADA format, but it is much more complicated! So I wondered if it could be possible to improve KML import in Google Earth by comparing the content of each tag and load only the new ones.
    I hope I described with enough accuracy my problem and that my suggestion could be taken into consideration.
    You can contact me on my mail:
    Best regards,
    Institut Geographique National

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