We like to think of Building Maker as a cross between Google Maps and a gigantic bin of building blocks. Basically, you pick a building and construct a model of it using aerial photos and simple 3D shapes – both of which we provide. When you're done, we take a look at your model. If it looks right, and if a better model doesn't already exist, we add it to the 3D Buildings layer in Google Earth. You can make a whole building in a few minutes.Here's a demo video from the Google beta:
Google lists some additional consequences of participating in the program:
- Building Maker is an online tool, and it runs entirely in your web browser (Google Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Internet Explorer, etc.)
- Before you can add a building to Google Earth, you need to sign in to your Google Account (so you get credit for what you contribute).
- Models you create with Building Maker "live" in the Google 3D Warehouse (a giant, online repository of 3D models).
- You can use Google SketchUp (our free, general-purpose 3D modeling tool) to edit or otherwise modify anything you make with Building Maker.
- Make sure you have the latest version of Google Earth installed on your computer.
- If you're on a Mac, you need to download the Google Earth plug-in directly.
- Building Maker will likely be optimized for Chrome, leading participating prosumers to adopt Chrome.
- Building Maker is yet another service that requires a Google account. Google's goal seems to be to get everyone on the planet signed up and exposed to their other offerings, particularly increasingly coveted value-adding prosumers.
- By "live in Google's 3D Warehouse" I suspect that means these models are open to use by others. This repository is immensely valuable, even if/when granular use (Creative Commons) permissions are implemented, to not only Google Earth, but into other 3D initiatives and the developement of object search, etc. 3D will play a big role in the web of 2010-2020 and Google is setting up its plays.
- Sketch-Up adoption benefits Google and creates a layer of separation between objects created in that language and other efforts to generate 3D object databases (Microsoft, Yahoo, IBM, Apple, Second Life can't be far behind - note: these dynamics will continue to make Linden Labs a more coveted acquisition target). My guess is that this also incrementally increases the likelihood that more serious programmers will adopt Google App Engine if Google Earth and Sketch-Up are made to play nicely with this core framework, one that Google wants to blow up big.
- Encourages the development and use of Google Earth, potentially the most valuable and critical prosumer platform of the near-future.
Maybe it's time to get a nicer camera.