Credit: Jason Innes
"We’re Google. We want to put things in a browser," says Mark Limber, product manager for Building Maker, Google’s new Web-based tool for creating basic 3D models of buildings.
You probably didn’t know it, but a building boom is under way in more than 50 first- and second-tier cities across North America, Europe, and Japan—even in this global recession. The construction activity isn’t occurring along urban streets, however, or out in the suburbs, or anywhere in between. Instead, it’s all taking place within the hard drives of Google’s massive data centers.
The technology giant, which already has fostered a wave of amateur architects through its wildly popular SketchUp software, now offers a simpler way to create 3D models of the manmade world: Building Maker. “We had this drive to give tools to people to quickly make things for Google Earth [GE], but we wanted more people to participate,” says product manager Mark Limber. “We wanted a lower cost of entry.” With the free, Web-based Building Maker, they’ve got it.
Launched in mid-October in 14 languages and with a built-in list of 50 cities (more have been added since), the tool is simplicity itself. Once the GE plug-in is installed, (1) choose a city; (2) choose a building; (3) use basic geometric blocks to create a 3D model; (4) add texture to each surface via GE and Street View images; (5) provide a title and description; and (6) upload to Google’s 3D Warehouse. Although not every model will make it into GE, as there is a review process to ensure that the virtual world contains the best building representations possible, all models will remain in the 3D Warehouse for everyone to see.
Limber declines to provide a number for how many buildings have been uploaded, but he says the response “has been more than I expected”—which is something, given that he works for one of the world’s most popular companies. And even though there will be upgrades to Building Maker, the goal is to keep this “simple product that’s pretty powerful” just that. Best of all, says Limber, “one of the great things about a Web product is that updates are easy.”
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