Research Paper: 3D Models of a city – Google Earth

by Marina S
By Marina Schweizer

Google Earth is well known by many internet users for its ability to observe the world from above. But how can we use and benefit from 3D models of a city as a tool implemented in Google Earth? In the following essay, I’d like to answer this question. Firstly, I will explain what a 3D model of a city is. Then, I’d like to propose some benefits and disadvantages of 3D models as used in Google Earth and discuss the future of 3D Models.

As previously mentioned, 3D models of a city is a feature of Google Earth, which enables a person to visualize a city with its buildings three-dimensionally. Creating 3D buildings on Google Earth is an option that is openly available to everyone. In fact, Google encourages contributions from both governments and members of the public. For this, Google offers a software called Sketchup for every user at no cost. This is a user-friendly software that even those with no programming knowledge are able to use to create a 3D Model. The newly created 3D buildings can then be uploaded through the Google Earth 3D Warehouse, which is an online storage site for 3D models. Furthermore, it is a collaborative community for 3D modelers where they can exchange ideas. With the help of an acceptance criteria Google proofs each 3D building. Once approved, the 3D building can become part of Google Earth and anyone who uses the program can see it when they turn on the 3D layer.

3D Models of a city have various benefits for different users. Google Earth is used by more than 350 million internet users. Though, with the help of Google Earth, 3D models can reach an international audience. “Through the Cities in 3D Program, you can encourage many uses of this tool by the public, professionals in the private sector, visitors to your city and even agencies of your government.”  (retrieved October 30, 2010 from: http://sketchup.google.com/intl/en/3dwh/citiesin3d/) So why are 3D models always getting more and more famous?

In the field of urban planning, 3D models can facilitate planning decisions and economic development. As proposed buildings can be viewed in 3D, stakeholders, government agencies, citizens and many other groups can obtain an additional perspective. They can see the impact that the new development would have on the existing environment, for example, on their neighborhood. Furthermore, you can see the buildings from all angles and you are even able to see shades of proposed buildings. Consequently, this tool could lead to a broader participation in the planning process. Everyone can obtain the same information very quickly and, as a result, civil participation can be encouraged. One of the greatest benefits of this system is that there is no need for expensive software, thus allowing everyone to participate and share ideas. Moreover, 3D models of a city can help visitors of a city to discover places where they would like to travel to and hotels where they would like to stay. As such, 3D models can even be used as a global marketing tool in the field of tourism. 3D models can also foster economic development. Businesses have the ability to advertise their services within this system by providing direct access to their business website. “You can even show potential investors available properties and attract new businesses.” (retrieved October 30, 2010 from: http://www.preservationnation.org/main-street/main-street-now/2010/januaryfebruary/visualizing-your-community.html) Another benefit is that 3D Models can be used in the field of crime prevention, where police have the ability to better understand crime patterns by looking at specific areas of interest. But there are also some negative aspects concerning 3D models in Google Earth. First, a lot of online users help creating 3D cities. In consequence, the quality of every single model varies as different users create the 3D buildings. Second, it is a long process to build a whole city with every single building through this kind of process.

In my opinion, 3D models in Google Earth will continue to become increasingly important. As every internet user has access to this tool, and as more and more 3D buildings will be built in Google Earth, it will become a powerful tool for businesses as well as for citizens to get involved in decision making processes. All in all, I would like to point out that 3D models offer huge benefits for everyone. It is such a powerful tool which is still in its infancy. In my opinion, 3D Models of a city affect so many fields in our daily lives that everyone will profit from it in the future.

References:

Day, Martyn (2009, September 14). Grand designs. Digital cities. Retrieved Octover 30, 2010 from: http://aecmag.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=307&Itemid=36

Morrison, Kent (2010, January-February). Visualizing Your Community with Google Earth and Google SketchUp. Retrieved October 30, 2010 from: http://www.preservationnation.org/main-street/main-street-now/2010/januaryfebruary/visualizing-your-community.html

Reisinger, Don (2008, November 17). Google SketchUp7 wants to shape you into a 3D artist. Retrieved October 30, 2010 from: http://news.cnet.com/8301-17939_109-10098356-2.html

Therrien, James (2009, July 22). Cities are getting on the virtual map. Retrieved October 30, 2010 from: http://sketchupdate.blogspot.com/2009/07/cities-are-getting-on-virtual-map.html

Turnbull, Alex and James (2008, September 1). 10 Amazing Google Earth Add-Ons. Retrieved October 30, 2010 from: http://www.pcworld.com/article/150409/10_amazing_google_earth_addons.html

Unknown author. Put your city on the 3D map. Retrieved October 30, 2010 from: http://sketchup.google.com/intl/en/3dwh/citiesin3d/

Picture: Retrieved October 30, 2010 from: http://proyectoempresarial.files.wordpress.com/2009/10/google-earth-logo.jpg