Google’s 3D imagery for New York and the San Francisco Bay Area is getting a major makeover today. The company’s 3D imagery in Google Maps and Earth has always been pretty good, but it was never perfect. Today’s update is a clear improvement over Google’s previous imagery set, but it also still shows that there is quite a bit of work left to be done before we’ll see perfect 3D renditions of these cities in the browser.
Google tells me it used better cameras and improved algorithms to reconstruct these cities in 3D. The thing you’ll probably notice first is that cars don’t look like they’ve all been flattened (as in the image on the right), and smaller structures like billboards, kiosks and bus stops all look more realistic, too. The same goes for larger structures, which now look far more detailed.
Even with all of these improved algorithms, trees still look odd, however, and there are also still issues with structures that aren’t solid.
Still, this is a major improvement over the previous version. If you want to see even better 3D maps, though, you should look at the Bing Maps preview on a Windows 8 (or 10) machine. While Microsoft’s algorithms aren’t perfect, either, they tend to do a better job with details and trees, which leads to a better overall experience and more realism — especially when you zoom in really close (though Microsoft doesn’t offer 3D imagery for anywhere near as many cities as Google).
Google says it’ll bring similarly improved imagery to more cities in 2015.