Introducing Google Building Maker

Hot on the heels of the SketchUp 7.1 launch a couple of weeks ago, we're pleased to announce the release of the latest addition to our 3D family: Google Building Maker is a super-specialized, online tool for creating buildings specifically for Google Earth.

Building Maker lets you choose a building to model by looking at aerial imagery. After you've told it what you'd like to model, Building Maker loads up several different aerial views of that building taken from different directions. You then align simple 3D shapes – boxes, prisms, pyramids and others – to the different views. Building Maker takes care of all the photo-texturing for you; it uses the aerial photos to "paint" your building when you save it. Models you create with Building Maker are stored in the Google 3D Warehouse, and are automatically considered for inclusion on the 3D Buildings layer in Google Earth. If your model looks good (and if there's no better one already in its place), it'll appear in Google Earth (for millions of people) within about a week.

Check out this video to see Building Maker in action:



We're launching with 50 cities that are ready for Building Maker. We'll continue to add cities as fast as we can, but feel free to jump in and give Building Maker a test drive whenever you like. Modeling in a place you're not familiar with is a great way to learn something about it.

So is Building Maker supposed to replace SketchUp? Absolutely not! SketchUp is a general-purpose tool that people use to model everything under the sun. Building Maker, on the other hand, is a specialist. For folks who want to make models and see them in Google Earth, it's simple, efficient and (we hope) downright fun.

Here's something else we think is neat: Anything you create with Building Maker, you can download and open in SketchUp. You can tweak textures, refine geometry – whatever it takes to make your building even better. When you're done, uploading your improved model to the 3D Warehouse further increases its chances of being accepted into Google Earth.

Some more things you should know about Building Maker:

  • Building Maker is an online app, meaning it runs entirely in your web browser (Google Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Internet Explorer, etc.).
  • To get credit for what you contribute, you need to sign into your Google Account.
  • 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 is free and available in 14 languages. Go to www.google.com/buildingmaker to join the worldwide mapping community. Have fun!

Mark Limber, Product Manager and Matt Simpson, User Experience Designer

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25 comments :

Karthik said...

This seems to be a great tool. Currently we can create buildings in only a few cities. But, this way Google can make whole Google Maps to provide a real 3D images.

Daniel said...

This is pretty cool. Question though, how do I tell which buildings already have 3D models? If I pull up Charlotte, NC in Google Earth there are loads of 3D buildings but I can't tell which have already been done while in Google Building Maker :(

lucifer1101 said...

Fantastic, except it could use some sort of push pull tool...

Anton said...

Everything that's inside a blue area has been modeled in 3d

Daniel said...

Maybe everything in blue is supposed to already be modeled but that doesn't seem to be the case. Go to 35°12'43.32"N 80°50'22.74"W which is in the Blue area for Charlotte, there are several houses here that don't have a 3D model.

Also what happens when I create a 3D model in the white area, does a small area around the building become blue so that others know not to work on it?

Colin Howell said...

Daniel has stumbled across a serious problem with this tool. Someone who is choosing a building to model has no easy way to see which buildings have already been modeled by others.

While Google suggests selecting a building in the white-outlined city areas, giving the user an impression that these areas are open territory, it turns out that many buildings in those areas already have models in the 3D Warehouse. Most of these have been recently created with the Building Maker tool and have not yet been accepted in Google Earth, so they won't appear there. The easiest way to see them is to find a existing building model for the city in question in the 3D Warehouse (for example, by searching for the city name), and then to click on the Map tab on the page for that model. The resulting map will show lots of house icons, representing 3D Warehouse models of other buildings in that area.

Unfortunately, you can't see this information on the map which appears in the initial Building Maker page, so you have to check between two different map pages to find an unmodeled building. And there's absolutely no way to know whether someone else isn't already in the process of making a model of that same building--you can only hope.

It can be quite frustrating to spend time working on a building model only to find out later that someone else has already done so and that your time would have been better spent on another building.

For Google to get the greatest impact from this tool, it should provide some means for the user to easily see buildings that have already been modeled. Simply relying on luck isn't enough, since without guidance people are more likely to choose a small set of large, important looking buildings to model first, and will thus keep stepping on each other, while other buildings remain untouched. Also, users frustrated at finding that their efforts were merely duplicates may be discouraged from working further with the tool at all.

James Cannam said...

Another amazing tool from Google. You know what I love the most is the fact that Google take an expensive and time consuming task (3D design) and turn it into a fun activity that people do for a hobby. That way everyone is happy to contribute and eventually the whole world will have been modelled in 3D for free!

I only wish there was a way to exploit it commericially, but unfortunately it is hard to sell 3D building models when so many people are willing to do it for free.

Luke W said...

Fantastic tool Google. I have tried it out by making a couple of buildings from US cities and I can't believe how easy it is to make buildings now! And the fact you can tweak them further in SketchUp is fantastic as well! I cannot wait until you enable Australian cities, especially Melbourne, to create buildings for these cities, because they never receive any attention from Google or Microsoft.

arctocebus said...

not working here: Mac OS X 10.6.1 Safari 4.0.3. shows Error Loading Google Earth Plug-In, but application/geplugin is installed! Whats wrong?

John said...

Message for Luke W. I believe Brisbane, Australia has Building Maker info on line via Google's new tool.

jullebarge said...

Fantastic tool ! It become really easy to create 3D models.
But there are two problems at this time: it's really difficult to make the building you create not flying above the ground. It didn't manage to create one model without this problem.
Second thing, it's annoying to see that another bilding as been created at the same place. We should be able to see the building already created before starting.

Nelson said...

Nice! but How do I model a buiding with a hole inside? or curved walls?

SketchUp Guide Barry said...

arctocebus: from earth.google.com/, it says "The Google Earth Plugin does not yet support the Safari web browser on Mac OS X 10.6 (Snow Leopard). Safari support for Snow Leopard is coming soon. In the meantime, you can try visiting this page in Mozilla Firefox 3."

Daniela said...

Same problem here with Mac Snow Leopard. Keep us updated when you'll fix the problem!

Ray said...

YES! Dreams come true! Amazing tool. I hope to get to work momentarily.
Now, if Google could please just provide me a small artist grant, I will lock myself in my room all winter and make kick ass buildings for the world. They don't have to hire me or anything, just reward my passion with a small artist grant please? Check out the buildings I made with sketch up, and stay tuned for my future buildings in GE Minneapolis!

Ray said...

Forgot to link my models!
http://sketchup.google.com/3dwarehouse/doadvsearch?uq=14805565203699396297&isbestofgeo=true

Nickvet419 said...

Good tool for making simple building models. Would of been nice to integrate this into sketchup to be able to import the birdseye shots into a photo match.

I think this tool will only create more workload for 3dwarehouse, when these areas coud have easily been auto genorated as in the past.

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vins said...

I tried to make some buildings. It is ok, as I 3d modeler I like take this model to sketchup and do the fine touchings. Any one can guide me how can I select the 6 photographs shown in buliding maker plugin to sketchup. thanks in advance.

Nicktoddy said...

Is anyone getting PAID to do this? I hope anyone who participates in this crowd source has google stock. You might as well be dragging a large stone to the top of an unfinished pyramid.

پوریا پارسا said...

Hi!
Is is clear when more cities would be available for model making?
Where can we find out when a specific city will be offered? Should we keep on visiting Building Modeling web-page regularly or there is an easier way?

پوریا پارسا said...

Hi!
Is there any estimation about when other cities (Swedish ones for example)would be available for three-D modeling?
Is there any easier way other than checking the list regularly?

thimble said...

Please include Anchorage, Alaska as a city for builders to explore. Our city is not too large, and I imagine it can be populated with 3d buildings in a short time. Thank you Google!

Nancy Farley said...

Now people won't be able to get a hard time to sketch buildings. A new way technology. I can design a building like Philamlife Tower Makati to be good and perfect.