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Google to Map San Francisco in 3D 267

mtz206 writes "SiliconValleyWatcher reports that "Google plans to use trucks equipped with lasers and digital photographic equipment to create a realistic 3D online version of San Francisco, and eventually other major US cities. The move would trump Amazon's A9 service, which offers two-dimensional photos of buildings on US city streets.""
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Google to Map San Francisco in 3D

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  • A strange sight (Score:2, Interesting)

    by LaundroMat ( 517379 )
    Let's just hope they'll warn the authorities and tell them of their good intentions, because I can imagine not everyone will consider the driving around in trucks 'equipped with lasers and photographic equipment' as a non-threatening activity.
    • Alternately, if you want to build a terror-truck equiped with lasers and such, just paint a colorful "Google" logo on the side and you'll be able to drive wherever you want.
  • Why? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by onion2k ( 203094 ) on Thursday June 09, 2005 @08:12AM (#12767205) Homepage
    What's the point? Ok, it'll be pretty to look at, but highly accurate maps are actually less useful in pretty much all applications than simplified thematic representations.
    • People respond differently to different stimuli. While you might be able to pick out the street corner you agreed to meet on from looking at a couple of lines on some paper, others (myself included) would find it beneficial to see an actual 3D visualisation of what the place looked like so that they know what and where they're aiming at.
    • Re:Why? (Score:2, Insightful)

      by blekkazzen ( 822163 )
      For an example, most department stores have those little schematic of their stores that show where each area is in the store. Using that you can tell someone "Meet me in the sporting good section" and they can look at the map and figure out where the sporting good section is and meet you there. Problem is that you can't be anymore specific and instantly expect the person to know where you're talking about unless they've been there. Now on the other hand if you had a detailed 3D map of the store you could s
    • Re:Why? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Analogy Man ( 601298 )
      The extra detail can be very useful. Consider this use case: Friday (tomorrow) I am driving from Michigan to Sheboygan Wisconsin, picking up my sister at the Airport in Milwaukee. There is a park on Lake Michigan a few minutes away from the airport I will use to entertain my kids in the event that I get through Chicago ruch hour traffic with time to spare.

      So with respect to the park, from the satellite image I was able to determine there is a beach, it is not apparent that access is controlled (i.e. stat

    • Counterstrike maps!
    • What's the point? Ok, it'll be pretty to look at, but highly accurate maps are actually less useful in pretty much all applications than simplified thematic representations.

      Yes, but now we'll know where the better looking hookers are at before we travel to a new city.
    • I want Google Maps' driving directions to offer me a photo at every road change.

      If you're driving on any sane road system this pretty much isn't necessary. But if you're driving in Massachusetts some of the intersections are pretty hairy and you have no idea what you're in for from the map. Some roads go up in the air, some go down and around, some you have to be in a certain lane to have any chance of taking, etc. The closer you get to Boston the more the insane meter starts to peg.

      Google can show me,
  • Warning... (Score:5, Funny)

    by HaydnH ( 877214 ) on Thursday June 09, 2005 @08:12AM (#12767211)
    ... to anyone living in San Francisco: Make sure your curtains are drawn while doing things you shouldn't be doing.

    "Hey mom, check out this 3D Google version of our home, hey what are you and dad up to in your bedroom??? Ewwww!"
    • This reminds me of a funny story. It was one of those cop shows in tv where a reporter was at the scene where a crime had taken place a few weeks ago.

      The reporter was giving the viewers a brush up of what happened when the cameraman caught something behind her. A couple was doing it and had forgotten to draw their curtains. The cameraman zoomed into the couple and filmed their act.

      Of course, they re-shot the scene later when the couple was done. However, the clip leaked to the internet, and within hours
  • Imagine.. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by myspys ( 204685 ) on Thursday June 09, 2005 @08:15AM (#12767234) Homepage
    .. that data being used in games like GTA.

    You could visit every city they have mapped.

    • by markild ( 862998 ) on Thursday June 09, 2005 @08:20AM (#12767274)
      Could get troublesome though...

      "I rememeber i robbed this bank once.. Wait, was that real life or GTA."
  • One Upmanship (Score:3, Insightful)

    by CastrTroy ( 595695 ) on Thursday June 09, 2005 @08:18AM (#12767260) Homepage
    Seems like there's a lot of one upmanship going on in the mapping business. Everybody seems to be trying to outgimmick everyone else. My favourite is still Mapquest. Although they could learn a little about UI from Google, I find that MapQuest's maps provide much more information as far as street names, especially when zoomed out. I also don't really like the look of google's oversided roads.
    • Mapquest is useless in Canada. It can't find many addresses I give it. Google maps has never stumbled on any address I give it.
      • I use A lot more up to date than Google for Canada.

      • Mapquest had a problem for a while where the front page search would only yield results in US. Canadian address work now, but didn't for a long time, even though they should have. You had to go to maps, and specify the country for it to work. It seems that its been able to find any address I've given it.
  • Since mapping data can be so damned expensive, I wondered if it would be possible to use digital photographs to read civic numbers and/or street names. Assuming you could read traffic signs, the same photos may be used to gather data about driving constraints (one-way streets, stops, left/right-only turns, etc.)

    That could effectively break the monopoly of the big mapmakers for those things we like to hack.

    Anyone know?
    • By rights mapping ought to be the ultimate community application - it's inherently distributed by nature.

      If everyone was to map out their local area by means of GPS and some simple software, then all the small patches could be combined into a street level map of the whole world. Or at least, the part of it populated by people with GPS receivers.

      I guess that's the problem at the moment. Hopefully, once they start embedding GPS receivers in every cell phone, this sort of application will really take off.

  • Why? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by edwilli ( 197728 ) on Thursday June 09, 2005 @08:20AM (#12767273) Homepage
    Seems to me Google [] does some things simply for intellectual curiosity, then ends up figuring out a way to make money off it.
    • Re:Why? (Score:2, Insightful)

      Which makes business sense because it makes us interested in Google.

      When they score geek points, geeks want to work for them. That way, they get the best people for the lowest price.

      Geeks are also the have a major influence on other people's online behaviour. Did your mother try out all the other search engines before deciding that google was the best?
  • by el_womble ( 779715 ) on Thursday June 09, 2005 @08:23AM (#12767291) Homepage
    Step 1: Strap frickin' laser beams to sharks head
    Step 2: Map the ocean
    Step 3: ????
    Step 4: PROFIT!!!
  • by charlie_vernacular ( 710651 ) on Thursday June 09, 2005 @08:23AM (#12767296)
    At the risk of sounding like an advert (and apologies to those who feel that I do), the Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis (CASA) at University College London is building a 3D GIS-based model of London that will and can be used to help the public explore different urban planning outcomes (amongst other things).

    About Virtual London here: tm []

    About CASA's research here: []

    Declaration of Interest: Professor Mike Batty, who runs CASA, was one of my PhD supervisors.
  • Not just the USA (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Mr_Silver ( 213637 ) on Thursday June 09, 2005 @08:25AM (#12767313)
    I know that I'm in the minority here, but it would be nice that, instead of rolling out newer and cooler projects to America only, Google remembered that they have an equally large (if not larger?) user base in Europe who also made a significant contribution to their success.

    Yes, we did (eventually) get Froogle here in the UK, but I don't believe any of the other countries have. Google maps also arrived, but again, I don't believe it covers anywhere else.

    Now you have satellite imagery and 3D maps and again the UK hope for it and the rest of Europe seems to be out on a limb.

    I have no doubt that the UK will eventually see this stuff (as with the others) and for that I am thankful - however our friends elsewhere in Euroland I fear will never see the light of day of some of this rather cool products.

    • Google is a business. They expand services when it makes economic sense.
    • by TwP ( 149780 ) on Thursday June 09, 2005 @01:07PM (#12770709) Homepage
      Tell you what. Give me a call on your 3G cellphone and whine to me in person while sending me 2 Mpixel photos of your crappy Google interface. Or you can write me an e-mail while your zipping along at 180Kph in your bullet train with wireless capabilities. Or you can drive your fuel efficient smart car over the Atlantic ... never mind. Not all technologies make it across the pond. Sorry. That's the way it is. I'm sure if you want to give a few million dollars to Google to get these services in Europe they would be willing to listen. In fact, I'm sure they have even scoped out the business case and revenue model for brining these services to Europe. In the meantime enjoy your government health care, your month of holiday, and your labor party government ;) When the Google commandos hit the beaches to save the UK and Europe from the evils of "we-don't-have-nice-maps" we'll let you know.
  • by derkyjadex ( 852889 ) on Thursday June 09, 2005 @08:26AM (#12767316)
    "...trucks equipped with lasers...", Google have finally begun their attack on the world...
  • by pandrijeczko ( 588093 ) on Thursday June 09, 2005 @08:26AM (#12767322)
    ...just nuke the site from orbit.
  • by ChrisF79 ( 829953 ) on Thursday June 09, 2005 @08:27AM (#12767325) Homepage
    Ever map out where you're going, only to find that its nearly impossible to see any address numbers on buildings, making it harder than it should be to find your destination? I'd like to see streaming video that shows you the drive to wherever you're going. Of course, you could speed it up for the long parts, but show the turns so you know what to look out for. It seems like they could equip some delivery trucks (from other companies) with cameras, maybe strike a deal with UPS or Fedex, and then sort out the video later. Of course, it would take a lot of work, but it could start with smaller cities and work its way up. Now that's what I'd like to see...
    • On a related note, the first Rand McNalley books were actually done this way. they would take a camera with them and document intersections where you would have to turn to get to major intersections. Your idea would simply move that first road mapping idea to the modern era.
    • This is a cool idea... one problem will be how often the information is updated.

      The regular maps get outdated, but they can be fixed relatively quickly. Pictures of a place--whether 3D, 2D or satellite--would take longer to update.

      For an example of this, look at Highway 87 in San Jose, which was recently upgraded to a freeway for its whole length. The regular map [] view shows the freeway as it is today, passing over a road (Hedding) with no direct access to 87. When you switch to the satellite view [], thou
  • Why only US cities? Sure there are some interesting cities in the US. But how about Paris, Rome, Rotterdam, Tokyo etc etc ?
    • Not Paris. The French would complain that Google is eating into their tourism profits and expel them from the country.
    • Why not read the article, smarty? It's only about 3.5 paragraphs, including this particular gem:

      "The goal is to create similar 3D online versions of other cities in the US and overseas."
  • Big question, why? They could instead improve the accuracy of their google maps, which puts my house nearly a block and a half away of where it should be. Then again, we pay USGS to map out GPS maps... but I can't see the point in mapping out 3D maps.
  • do not look at truck with remaining eye !
  • I thought 2D maps had troubles with things changing and the map being incorrect. Can you imagine this ? If someone even digs up the sidewalk, the thing will become invalid.

    I know there are acceptable degrees of invalidity for mapping, but wouldn't adding an extra dimension to the map make it invalid even more quickly ? The applications for which one uses 3D maps are likely to require a lower error tolerance, aren't they ?

    (Someone correct me if I'm wrong - I'm no 3D modelling guru or map expert)
  • There are 3d simulations of San Francisco and London already [].
  • by SaleNowOn ( 846913 ) on Thursday June 09, 2005 @08:46AM (#12767465)
    1) Find details of the trucks route and the dates that Google will be mapping San Francisco.

    2) Download pictures of the FBIs 50 most wanted and photoshop bodies on to them.

    3) Get the local print shop to create life size cardboard cutouts.

    4) Place cuts outs strategically around San Francisco. I like the thought of Osma coming out of McDonalds with a bigmac.
    • I can't help but wonder what would happen if someone were to run alongside one of these trucks in line with the sensors and just leap around. Would they then end up with just a big, smeared, stretched out person rather than the city?

  • You mean sharks equipped with lasers, don't you?
    Throw me a fucking bone here :)
  • Heya! Seems to me that these kind of vehicles are cruising the cities now... []
  • Google and A9 are a lot like little kids on the playground:

    "I've got the best search technology in the world."
    "Oh yea, well mines better now."
    "What?!? Well, now I've got maps of the world... from space."
    "Huh? No, I've got maps from space and ground level pictures of buildings in American cities."
    "Regular maps? I've got maps in 3D now."

    Of course, the difference is, Google and A9 are actually telling the truth, although I'd be wary if A9 starts talking about 'their Dad's flying car.'
  • This is just information gathering for the coming Matrix. Well the Machine World had to get that data from somewhere!
  • Google 6 months ago thinking, "nah! what use have they for me when all I've done for the two years is develop photogrammetry software that actually works in the real world, how would that fit their business model?"

    On the other hand, from what I hear I'd have been paid peanuts if I worked there.

  • Would this work better if we attached the frickin' lasers to animals (native and/or alien) and let them do the mapping?

    Sharks perhaps?


  • []

    Now thats a nice job. Get in the Google/Stanford truck and drive around (don't forget to check out the Indian dude in Google truck. Talk about cheap labor)!

  • For a second I thought maybe Google had done something to improve it's search...thank god its just another completely unrelated thing.
  • are saying that this is a huge waste and pretty much pointless, and how Google does cool things first and then figures out how to make money off it later. But I believe that Google already knows how to make money off this.

    Google makes money by selling advertising "words"... auction-style. Now imagine the space that 'words' encompass. It's friggn huge.

    Now imagine how Google can make scads of money if they sell nearly limitless virtual billboards to advertisers for people using these 3D maps.

    Advertiser w
  • It seems to me that it should be possible to get all of the information that they need by taking multiple, overlapping pictures (say, video frames). Image analysis could get the various scale and perspective issues worked out after the fact, and save them the time and hassle of the laser measurements.

    Or maybe the image processing would take so long that the laser turns out to be faster anyway. But is there an eye-safety issue, lasering arbitary objects on the street?

"If it's not loud, it doesn't work!" -- Blank Reg, from "Max Headroom"