Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Google's Long Prosumer March Continues as Building Maker for Google Earth is Unveiled

As usual, Google is keeping it's eye on the (rapidly expanding) prosumer prize, this time strengthening the base of its Geo-Quantification efforts through the public release of Building Maker, a program w/ complementary toolkit that encourages citizens like you and me to add renderings of buildings to any of 50 designated Google Earth cities.
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.
Note the strategic synergy in herent in this latest GoEogle push (point by point):
  • 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.
 Google Earth remains the runaway leader in 3D quantification and serves as scaffolding increasingly capable of adding structure to Google's growing body of information.  By encouraging prosumers to add more value to this system, Google continues to put distance between it and its mapping/search competitors.  This ultimately bodes well for prosumers who will no doubt reap the benefits of this battling as other companies realize they need a large number of fairly capable brains deployed all over the world to compete in the quantification game - the race to add structure, generate actionable knowledge from the proliferating mass of data.

Maybe it's time to get a nicer camera.