[UPDATE 1250: The list is growing quickly. Found four new cities in the last few minutes with help from readers.]
When Google Earth 4.3 first came out, Google released a few cities with more complete 3D textured buildings. Just turn on the 3D Buildings layer – or more specifically the Photorealistic sub-layer of the 3D Buildings layer folder. Google wasn’t saying how they generated them, but the new cities were more complete and had a consistent color and high quality 3D textures. (Read the GEB review of 4.3).
My guess is that the textures are coming from aerial photography (based on the angles of reflections in the textures). In some cases, I’m guessing the 3D models are coming from 3rd party sources. Google is leaving any 3D buildings already modeled by others and selected from the 3D Warehouse. But, they are adding hundreds of buildings for these new cities with textures. In June they added a few more cities. You can tell when they have the auto-generated 3D buildings, because with GE 4.3 they won’t highlight in “blue” when you put your mouse over the new buildings.
I was checking out Chicago and by accident noticed there were many of the new buildings. So far, I’ve discovered the following new cities have the new 3D buildings: Chicago, Nashville, Philadelphia, San Diego, Minneapolis, Kansas City, St. Petersburg, Jacksonville, Clearwater, and Miami Beach (the last four all in Florida). Other cities already known to have the new buildings: US: San Francisco, Baltimore, Raleigh, Atlanta, Charlotte, Boston, Orlando, Austin, St. Louis, Oakland, Dallas, Tampa, Memphis, and Phoenix. Also, Zurich, Munich and Hamburg in Europe; and Tokyo in Japan has a smattering of 3D textured buildings. And, don’t forget Disney World in 3D. I’ve just noticed that Berlin has mostly complete coverage in non-textured buildings. I can’t remember if that is new. Here is a screenshot of Miami Beach:
I’m guessing there are other new 3D cities out there. If you find some, let me know with a comment here, and I’ll add them to the list. Just remember to check the list above, and if the 3D textured buildings don’t highlight when you put your mouse on them – then they are probably new.
I should mention that Google is in competition with Microsoft on 3D cities. Microsoft’s approach for Virtual Earth 3D from the beginning has been to auto-generate 3D buildings and textures from aerial photography and photogrammetry. Microsoft now has hundreds of cities (I last heard 300) with 3D buildings and low-resolution textures. They also have a few cities with higher resolution textures AND auto-generated trees. Read the GEB review of the first set of version 2 cities in VE. It would be cool if Google added trees for realism as well, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they did (oh yeah, I forgot they did include them in the Disney World models!). Meanwhile, Google is obviously adding additional cities with high resolution textures. In fact, I think Google’s textures in these new cities are even higher quality than Microsoft’s version 2 cities. Also, I think Google’s approach with user-generated 3D buildings does have one quite positive result: there are certainly many more cities and locations around the world in Google Earth with 3D models than are in VE. Even if the coverage is not as complete for cities with only 3D Warehouse models.
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.
berlin was the first city in europe to have full 3D coverage, first on external servers, now on google servers…
hamburg was the first to have textured 3D coverage in europe… (took a long time to get there…)
Esme Cowles says
Jacksonville, Florida has some textured buildings too. The football stadium is an older model, but many of the buildings, freeway ramps, and bridges are new textured models.
Not to forget Munich, Germany. Whole city is in 3D texture.
And if you want to see Berlin in 3D with textures (at least the city centre), make sure to check out this KML file: http://node05.3d-stadtmodell.eu/berlin/GE/berlin3d.kmz
Atlanta already had the new buildings, the but they just got a LOT more in the last few days — mostly smaller buildings, signs, etc. Very nice update.
Honestly, I don’t know whether is was there before (I never searched for it), but now I see some textured buildings in my home town, Utrecht, Netherlands, and in some other towns in the Netherlands (e.g. Amersfoort, Amsterdam).
One building in Utrecht has a tree on the side and a part of another building on another side: see 52 05 23 N 5 07 04 E.
But as I said: it might have been there before…
I know that Sacramento (nearest big city to me) had a full set of 3D buildings before this update – not sure when it came out, but it’s been there for some time. Although, there are some blocks of gray buildings still. The imagery used to generate the buildings for Sacramento can’t be older than late 2007, though, as the US Bank Tower looks to be complete. That would make it newer than the ground imagery (June 2007).
Min Heo says
Almost all the buildings you mentioned are likely made by third party, like Sanborn. You can consult the copyright notice at Google Earth.
Mark Reidy says
Even less of dublin is coming up 3D. Before the GPO,two quays and Liberty tower came up 3D. Now they don’t! The Irish Times building, the spire and a few(2 or 3) small buildings are all that comes up.What is happening?The rest of the world moves forward and Ireland is pushed backwards!
montbeliard(france)is fully textured:town and suburb
i just want to find a site on line that will let me fine a location on the eath and look at it 3D
Vous avez vu LYON, France? Small but nice as well..
DJ München says
Great work, I love to watch my hometown Munich (München) in Google Earth and I’ve already posted some pics in PANORAMIO… 🙂
3d hd tv guy says
I’m always blown away with the technology behind google earth. The texturd 3d is awesome!
Marathon Runner says
It is even nice to see where you have been running and of couse to measure the distance.
Gordan Knott says
Dublin now almost fully 3d – Somebody want to do Croke Park?
Steve Garrington says
Cardiff, Wales is fully 3D, all except my house which is inexplicably missing! Check it out for yourself, my post code is CF11 7AR and it’s the 4th house in from the corner.
I agree with “Marathon Runner”. Measuring the distance works fine.
dj augsburg says
Google Earth for me , is very dangerous – I spend too much time for it – Once, I looke at it, I cant get away.
Greets from Bavaria – Germany