Google Oct. 13 released Google Building Maker, a new tool that lets users create three-dimensional models of buildings in Google Earth in minutes.
3-D buildings are already a key component of Google Earth, an application that includes geographic layers for satellite imagery, maps, terrain, space and ocean topographies. With Building Maker, Google is crowdsourcing building creation.
Calling the tool "a cross between Google Maps and a gigantic bin of building blocks," Google said the Building Maker will let users pick a building and construct a model of it using aerial photos and 3D shapes from Google Earth.
Prospective builders start with six images and overlay blocks on top of existing building photos for proper sizing. A viewer button lets users preview their 3D model in Google Earth. Builders can then add a title and description of their model and save it to the Google 3D warehouse. Users can also use the Google SketchUp 3D modeling tool to modify buildings constructed with Building Maker.
When the builder is done with his or her building, Google reviews the model and adds it to the 3D buildings layer in Google Earth (provided it's good enough and a better model doesn't already exist).
Currently, users can use the tool to build buildings in some 50 cities, but that list will grow, the company claims. Moreover, Google is encouraging users to make models in cities other than their hometowns because "modeling in a place you've never been is a fantastic way to discover more about it."
Who, beyond architects and students of building models, might find Building Maker useful? Google claims Building Maker is a great way to help school teachers get students interested in geography.
Building Maker is the latest effort for Google to enable its users to crowdsource, or contribute to, the expansion of its mapping applications.
Just last week, Google began allowing U.S. users to point out gaps in the search engine giant's Google Maps coverage. A "report a problem" link on the bottom right of the map let users provide Google feedback for improving map search results. In August, Google rolled out live reporting of traffic conditions on back roads for some cities.
The crowdsourcing approach makes great sense for Google, whose goals of organizing the world's information online are particularly lofty when it comes to mapping out all of the places on the planet.
If Google can enlist users to contribute to this organization, the company may more quickly achieve its mapping goals, and foster good will among users by enabling them to not only search for maps and earth objects, but help product the content.
Building Maker, which runs in Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Apple Safari and Microsoft Internet Explorer Web browsers, is free and available in 14 languages. Users must have the latest version of Earth installed on their PCs and must be signed into their Google Account to use the tool.
Those interested can view this video demonstration of Building Maker, which shows how to build 3D models in four steps.