Some insight into Google Earth’s 3D imagery

We recently came across the YouTube video below about Google Earth’s 3D imagery. It gives some insight into how it is gathered and we also get to see some of the faces behind Google Earth, such as Google Earth Product Manager Gopal Shah.

Apparently the aircraft used to gather the 3D imagery use five cameras, one facing down then four others pointed in different directions. The ‘stereo’ imagery is not actually achieved by two cameras taking photos from different angles, but rather each single camera taking multiple photos as the aircraft is moving, effectively achieving a stereo effect. Previous analysis we have done (1 2 ) suggests that each camera captures four images in quick succession to get the ‘stereo’ effect for any given location and then imagery from multiple passes from different sides of the location are combined to create the final 3D.

Also interesting is that Gopal seems to imply that cars are manually removed from the imagery rather than via an automated process. Not mentioned in the video is the fact that Google pays special attention to some structures like bridges, harbour cranes and certain intricate buildings, using more manual methods. We believe the manual part of the process is the main reason 3D imagery often takes a long time between when the images were captured and when they are published in Google Earth.

It must also be pointed out that Google is continually improving the process and the latest releases of 3D imagery are significantly better quality than the oldest 3D imagery.

About Timothy Whitehead

Timothy has been using Google Earth since 2004 when it was still called Keyhole before it was renamed Google Earth in 2005 and has been a huge fan ever since. He is a programmer working for Red Wing Aerobatx and lives in Cape Town, South Africa.






PLEASE NOTE: Google Earth Blog is no longer writing regular posts. As a result, we are not accepting new comments or questions about Google Earth. If you have a question, use the official Google Earth and Maps Forums or the Google Earth Community Forums.

Comments

  1. Hi Timothy,

    Thanks for that link. Very interesting! The technology & processing involved to get 3D is truly amazing.

    I note Gopal says that “they” decide which areas they want to fly the 3D photo-grammetry planes over. Obviously “someone” has this ultimate say. I wish I could prod or suggest to this “someone” that Australia is grossly under-represented so far – given that we are very much a Google Earth friendly country (unlike many that wont allow anything at all) & that Australia has a huge amount of Street View coverage & generally great weather for flying 3D missions – I’m a bit perplexed why so little of our amazing Australian cities & landscapes is currently getting any 3D updates or ANY 3D coverage at all.

    Meanwhile Japan, Europe & US is having what seems to be a recent ongoing monopoly on 3D photgrammetry updates/extensions.

    It would be nice if Gopal could divulge their forward proposed calendar of places they are going to update/extend.

    Would it not also be nice if Gopal (or whoever might have the information) could provide the community with ongoing & regular lists (monthly or more frequent?) of places that have been 3D updated/extended or photo-grammetised for the first time, rather than the community trawling the planet looking for needles in a rather large haystack?

    Just a few thoughts…

    Cheers,

    Jeff C

  2. Comment to Timothy Whitehead:
    A few month ago, I read a GE-community report about how GE-3D buildings from the start, was based on some 1400 individuals 3D-buildings. All the names of the buildings was listed (in a link), including Turning Torso in Sweden, that I have drawn 2006. Also, in the article, it was described how GE-3d-buildings (or street views) was done to-day, 2017, but not in details, because the writer was not sure how much he was able to write, without revealing secrets. Very complex is this procedure, with the use of many different helps, such as drawings from building, GPS-systems, droners etc.
    Unfortunately I cannot find the article, so if you could kindly give me a link to that article I would be very happy. Thank you very much!



PLEASE NOTE: Google Earth Blog is no longer writing regular posts. As a result, we are not accepting new comments or questions about Google Earth. If you have a question, use the official Google Earth and Maps Forums or the Google Earth Community Forums.