Our World in 3D…

In the series of posts on alternate reality games (ARGs), we saw how ARGs could make use of ‘real world’ technologies to help engage the player in a game , by creating “real”, fake company websites, for example, or contacting the player, in context, via SMS.

In this post, I’d like to briefly explore the extent to which the real world is using user interfaces that are reminiscent of 3D games to recreate a version of the real world in virtual space. To set the scene, if you aren’t familiar with 3D services like Google Earth to Virtual Earth, might I suggest you have a quick read of Friday Fun #9 Gaming in Google Earth and Virtual Earth 3D and follow a couple of the links from that post, before reading this post any further…

You might also care to listen to Building a 3D Model of the Globe, a presentation from 2006 by John Hanke & Brad Schel, the Google Product Directors at the time.

Or watch this demo of 3DVia 3D models in Virtual Earth…

Recreating the world…

Although only a few years old, the origins of Google Earth are already confused by the mists of time. In Notes on the origin of Google Earth, Avi Bar-Zeev of research and development consultancy Reality Prime, and one of the people involved in the development of the software application now known as Google Earth, writes: “So we seem to have a few diverging memories on the origin and motivation behind Google Earth. One co-founder says it was Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash. One co-founder says it was the famous Powers of Ten flip-book and movie.”

Whatever the origins of Google Earth, the pace with which it – and other tools of its kind – have been developing means that it may not be too long before it may take on the role of a virtual world. Avi Bar-Zeev again (Google’s Virtual World, Redux): “GE already is a virtual world. It’s a virtual earth. It has all of the features of a virtual world (spatiality, point of view, presence, information modeling), minus a few we’ve come to expect from a game or socially-oriented space (seeing yourself, seeing other people, and directly interacting tog[e]ther). … The thing about GE is that it’s a so-called ‘mirror world.’ The whole point was always for GE to accurately and compellingly reflect information about the real world.”

In that article, what does Avi Bar-Zeev claim are some potential applications of using Google Earth as a virtual world? Five points to the first person to post a list of them back here as a comment ;-) What other applications can you think of that may be missing from that list? If you think of any, post them back here as a comment, or maybe write a blog post summarising the original list and then adding your ideas for further applications too.

It has been possible for some time to import ‘artefacts’ (or objects) into Google Earth and Virtual Earth. But whilst objects in Sketchup Warehouse may have been intended for use in Google Earth, ‘real'(?!) virtual worlds, they can also be used in real unreal virtual worlds(?!), as this example from Scenecaster shows:

Support for Google Sketchup Warehouse models has also been announced for use with the Multiverse virtual world platform, as this CNET article describes: Google tools to power virtual worlds.

What is the Multiverse “Architectural Wonders” project described in the CNET article? The article itself was recent some time ago (can you find out when) and attracted quite a lot of attention when it was announced. See if you can find out what the current state of the project is, whether it was dropped, or whether it appears to have transformed into something else, and comment back here with the latest news you can find…

From 2D to 3D

Creating 3D models ‘by hand’ is not the only way of generating them. Traditional 2D photos can now be processed so that “3D views” of them are possible, hinting at a future where you’ll be able to import a model of your house into a mirror world simply by photographing it…

Unfortunately, the Fotowoosh website is no longer available – it will be interesting to whether it reappears as a fully fledged service over the coming months…

When People Roam the Virtual Earth…

Google Earth and Virtual Earth already provide the opportunity for anyone to explore a virtual 3D version of many real world cities. To what extent do you think the experience would be different if instead of the current ‘any point you like’ birds eye view camera positioning, the camera view was over the shoulder of your own personal avatar? How and why do you think the experience might feel different?

If you are interested in knowing some of the technical details behind an early implementation of Google Earth, How Google Earth [Really] Works tells the tale from the horse’s mouth…

If you did listen to the Building a 3D Model of the Globe presentation, see if you can find out how much has Google Earth moved compared to the description of Google Earth given in the presentation. What predictions were made in the presentation about the future of Google Earth (as stated in 2006) and to what extent has the current version of Google Earth met, fallen short of, or exceeded those predictions?

[The videos from this post can be seen in the "Our World in 3D" show on the Digital Worlds Splashcast video channel.]

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2 Responses to “Our World in 3D…”


  1. 1 Tony Hirst May 14, 2008 at 12:00 pm

    Looking through an old back issue of Edge magazine (issue 177, dated July 2007), I came across a brief review of a 3D adventure game set in the English Heritage property Belsay Hall, in Northumberland (map: http://tinyurl.com/5pnkyu ).

    “The Middleton Mystery is an adventure game in which players must explore a 3D recreation of the hall and its gardens in order to relocate seven treasures. …
    “The game focuses on the history of the hall, using videos of ghostly inhabitants to tell the story, from World War II soldiers to members of the family that lived there, the Middletons.”
    Edge 177, July 2007, p18.

    The game – “Middleton Mystery” – is still available for download at http://www.picturehousebelsay.co.uk/middletonmystery/ (Windows only).

    If you know of any other interactive 3D models developed bu English Heritage, please post a link back here…


  1. 1 Our Heavens in 3D… « Digital Worlds - Interactive Media and Game Design Trackback on May 3, 2008 at 12:00 pm

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