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Google Earth Graphics Technology

Google Earth Adds 3-D Trees 95

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the still-waiting-for-4d dept.
terrancem writes "Google has populated several major cities with more than 80 million virtual trees based on an automated process that identifies trees in satellite images. The realistic 3D representations are based on actual tree species found in urban areas. But Google has also extended realistic tree coverage to rainforests in Africa, Mexico, and the Amazon."
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Google Earth Adds 3-D Trees

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  • by filesiteguy (695431) <kai@perfectreign.com> on Tuesday November 30, 2010 @07:33PM (#34397056) Homepage
    ...the streets through the forest!
    • As a resident of a modern urban environment, this is a problem I would love to have.
      • Speaking of problems, during the Google interview I think I was asked to design a data structure to represent a binary birch tree. I didn't get the job but I guess this is what the winning candidate built. Nice work!

  • Carbon dioxide (Score:3, Interesting)

    by PatPending (953482) on Tuesday November 30, 2010 @07:38PM (#34397096)
    How much carbon dioxide was produced making these 80 million virtual trees?
  • This was a spectacular use of Google's resources.

    Unless they're planning to elaborate on the existing flight simulator built into Google Earth by implementing a first person shooter, I'm afraid having trees doesn't seem like a particularly useful development.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      It is somewhat useful, depending upon one's use of google earth.

      I use google earth to look at things.

      I like looking at trees.

      I think it's useful :) ...a first person shooter layer would be pretty cool too though!

      • by drcheap (1897540)

        ...a first person shooter layer would be pretty cool too though!

        Especially if you can shoot down all the trees. Yes, all 80 million of them.

      • "It is somewhat useful, depending upon one's use of google earth."

        It also depends on whether or not Google is putting trees where they actually exist. As soon as people start using this as a means to calculate forest/jungle coverage it will be manipulated to someone's advantage, probably the lumber industry.

        Hopefully someone verifies they are not manipulating/guiding public opinion with false information, as that would be bad and might give people a poor impression of Google...*cough*.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          Firstly, that is the most misleading signature I've ever seen. Secondly, don't call me Nut.
          • "Firstly, that is the most misleading signature I've ever seen. Secondly, don't call me Nut."

            I find it absolutely hilarious that you actually got modded + Insightful. What a fucking waste of points...you guys act like their free or something.

            The sig was stolen from a /. poster that was actually claiming that, well...that he wasn't a conspiracy theorist nut when it was quite obvious he was exactly that. But, in your honor it shall be amended forthwith. Thanks.

      • by IrquiM (471313)

        I like looking at trees.

        Me too! But I use another tool - it's called "Outside". I know it's old and all that, but it works for me, not to mention the fact that it's totally free!

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by shird (566377)

      Seriously? I'd say it's useful for 90% of what Google Earth is used for commercially, i.e surveying. Trees are just as significant as buildings when it comes to mapping the land.

      Just because it's not useful for you to map your trip to Bob's house doesn't mean it's not useful for others.

      • by hedwards (940851)
        Except that they aren't actually using that kind of precision. If it isn't accurate to within 1/16" or so it's not really good enough for that, and anybody competent isn't going to take those measurements for granted anyways.
        • I use it to pick routes for pipelines in areas without roads. This will eventually be very handy once its coverage is increased. Accuracy to within 50' will be the only requirement. This will just speed the on the ground verification process.
        • by pspahn (1175617)

          If it isn't accurate to within 1/16" or so it's not really good enough for that

          Maybe your idea of surveying is different than the rest of the world's. Think with some perspective. Do you think engineers that require that type of precision are going to use Earth for this? There are a million other reasons to use Earth for surveying purposes, and most of them probably have a 1-2' precision requirement, not a fraction of an inch.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by eamonman (567383)

      If it was an automated algorithm that ID'd trees, I'd say no, this could be useful in other id'ing applications (maybe rocks, maybe separating natural from artificial objects or vice versa, etc).

      If it was 1000 poor interns/schoolkids paid to click on 80000 trees each, then ok, you win, this was a bad idea.

      • by pspahn (1175617)

        A major part of my job right now is the identification of trees. I am building a library of images and illustrations of basically every plant we sell. Sure, it can be pretty easy to determine the difference between, say, a linden and an elm, or whatever, but there are simply way too many varieties and cultivars nowadays to accurately determine exactly what a tree is with a high level of accuracy. Even horticulturists have a difficult time (I have seen several misidentified plants at the Denver Botanic Garde

        • They already did. Its called Google googles. as for the first person shooter: Its duke Nukem forever,
    • Re:Yippie. (Score:4, Funny)

      by interkin3tic (1469267) on Tuesday November 30, 2010 @08:31PM (#34397706)

      Unless they're planning to elaborate on the existing flight simulator built into Google Earth by implementing a first person shooter, I'm afraid having trees doesn't seem like a particularly useful development.

      You'd call a FPS a -useful- development?
       
      ...okay...

    • by thpr (786837)
      Have you ever tried to generate the view of what a proposed communications tower would look from your back yard? I have. While Google Earth was useful, It took me a lot of time modeling tree heights from pictures, GPS coordinates (of photo locations) and pacing.

      I don't know if their algorithm/data takes in account height, but if it does, or if they add it (and it wouldn't be hard at this point), it would be ENORMOUSLY useful in my opinion. It gives resources to the population to get an accurate renditi

  • Next up: autumn! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jfengel (409917) on Tuesday November 30, 2010 @07:40PM (#34397140) Homepage Journal

    I bet that with an afternoon's work they could have spring, summer, winter, and fall trees. With a little more work they could link it to the local climate and when particular species of trees change color when.

    I dunno what it would be for, but to be honest, I'm not precisely sure what this is for. "Raising awareness of trees" seems pretty lame. Still, it's very pretty, and there's nothing wrong with that.

    • by drcheap (1897540)

      ...but to be honest, I'm not precisely sure what this is for. "Raising awareness of trees" seems pretty lame.

      After much scrutiny over the huge carbon footprint Google has with all their computing and communications infrastructure, this is their way of "going green."

    • by pspahn (1175617)

      With a little more work they could link it to the local climate and when particular species of trees change color when.

      Possibly at a very very rudimentary level. The variables are simply too numerous to determine when a tree will flower or turn fall color and where. Depending on whether you go by the USDA climate zones or by something else such as Western Gardens climate zones, there are going to be an immense number of different circumstances that determine how a plant performs. Soil conditions, water amount, water pH, when the first freeze happens, when the last freeze happens, wind, air pollution levels, presence of poll

    • by houghi (78078)

      Connect it to weather reports and you could have snow as well.

  • ...to Google earth based upon traffic pattern analysis following local lunch times... Seriously, is this news? I mean, it is a tiny bit interesting because they try to identify the trees and automate the process, but people were doing this in the 90's for terrain datasets used with visual simulations (I personally did something like this for an OpenFlight based sim as a consulting gig based upon something I'd seen in a product at SIGGRAPH 96.)

    • by iluvcapra (782887)
      You didn't get it on every web browser on Earth. Take it from someone in the entertainment business, an eyeball is worth a 1000 good executions.
  • Now to add virtual people and it will be just like SimCity!
  • The house where I live is not on the ten-year-old aerial photo on Google Maps. Does this mean Streetview will soon show forest instead of my house?

  • I think a team at Google just set up a new world record in boredom...
  • Yippie. Yay. How fascinating.

    Seriously, Slashdot?

  • I use Google Earth to scout out potential hunting grounds in addition to exploring them in person. Unless these trees directly correspond to actual trees, this is a step backward as far as I'm concerned. They'd be better off obtaining higher-resolution images like Bing's "Bird's Eye View" feature, which only works in very limited areas but it's great where they have it.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by drcheap (1897540)

      They do, you don't even have to RTFA, it's in the summary:

      based on an automated process that identifies trees in satellite images

      • Replacing a photo of an actual tree with a 3D model of some random tree that is native to the area (but may not even be the same species) is not progress. If it can identify the type of tree, along with approximate dimensions, then I'll be extremely impressed. I highly doubt they could even correctly determine the species based on the quality of photos they currently have, and if they have better quality photos then those should be made available as a layer or at a high enough zoom level (like Bing).
  • Recognize the make and model of various cars and put in appropriate models please.

    Google Grand Theft Auto Earth here we come.

  • Where are the fucking 3D trees?
    • by wulfhere (94308)
      Download the latest version, and under Layers, and 3D Buildings there's a checkbox for Trees.
      • by Pyrion (525584) *
        Aha okay, did a "check for updates" in GE and got nothing, and the (badly formatted) article didn't link to a new version. *shrugs*

        *tries it out*

        Oh FFS they're sprites.
        • by Pyrion (525584) *
          Self-correction: you apparently have to zoom in close enough to see the individual leaves on the trees before it renders them as 3d models.
  • by Lord Satri (609291) <alexandreleroux@nOsPAM.gmail.com> on Tuesday November 30, 2010 @08:43PM (#34397828) Homepage Journal

    Okay, that's a bit off-topic, but not that much when we discuss virtual globes and the likes. Here's a dismissed submission last week [slashdot.org] that I think worthy of sharing: "It's a dream come true. After MapQuest [mapquest.com] and Yahoo [highearthorbit.com] actively supporting the Wikipedia-like map initiative OpenStreetMap.org [openstreetmap.org]. Microsoft announced that they hired OpenStreetMap's founder Steve Coast for their Bing Maps team [bing.com]. But there's more, they committed providing orthorectified aerial imagery and more to the project. From the official announcement: "Continuously innovating and improving our map data is a top priority and a massive undertaking at Bing. That's why we're excited to announce a new initiative to work with the OpenStreetMap project, a community of more than 320,000 people who have built high quality maps for every country on earth. Microsoft is providing access to our Bing Aerial Imagery for use in the OpenStreetMap project, and we have hired industry veteran Steve Coast to lead this effort. [...] As a first step in this engagement, we plan to enable access to Bing's global orthorectified aerial imagery, as a backdrop of OSM editors. Also, Microsoft is working on new tools to better enable contributions to OSM." Microsoft already added the OpenStreetMap layer to Bing Maps last August [bing.com]."

    Clearly, this means to me that open data has won that round and that Tele Atlas and NAVTEQ are in deeper trouble today than a few months ago.

    Now to go back to Google, at the moment, but it could change anytime, they're going on a different road away from OpenStreetMap with their Google Map Maker.

    • Why did your post get rejected? I find it very informative and well supported with links. Thanks for bringing it back.

      • by amentajo (1199437)

        Why did your post get rejected? I find it very informative and well supported with links. Thanks for bringing it back.

        Perhaps because it was very informative and well-supported with links.

  • ..but those trees look very lame. Compare to Speed Tree [google.com] which looked ten times better five years ago. Back to the drawing board, smart people. Or just do what I suggested a couple years ago and license Speed Tree. This is not the sort of development work that is every going to get done satisfactorily by the smart-but-lazy. NIH, just don't do it.

    • by pspahn (1175617)

      Looking at the samples from Speedtree's website, they have done a poor job of recreating those plants. Sure, the trees themselves look fairly realistic, but they are not accurate representations of the real plants.

      If you want accurate renditions, look at the work of Robert O'Brien at TreeGuides [treeguides.com]

  • Shade map? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MiddleHitter (473147) on Tuesday November 30, 2010 @09:06PM (#34398060) Homepage

    As a grad student at the University of Arizona (in Tucson) who works on campus in the summers...I'd really like to see a shade map that is indexed to the time of day and inclination of the sun to calculate the most-shaded paths around campus. That might not sound so useful, but when it's 105F out, every bit of shade makes all the difference on a 10-15 minute walk across campus.

  • But doesn't support Linux 64 bit and the download site hands you a 32 bit version that flat out doesn't work.
  • by wulfhere (94308) <timNO@SPAMhuffmans.org> on Tuesday November 30, 2010 @10:11PM (#34398878) Homepage
    As the network admin for a wireless ISP, we use Google Earth as a sort of 'first approximation' (along with RadioMobile) to do preliminary site-surveys, estimating whether its even worth our time to roll a truck for an attempted install. This looks like a great addition to an invaluable tool to me!
  • Geeks with pre-Vista computers will be very sore at this. Businesses who didn't want Vista/Aero upgrades kept their old single core Pentium 4 machines and still game forums are full of posts showing crappy framerates on even recent hardware aren't a dwindling problem.

    Though IIRC 3D buildings are an opting-in away, when you try to show off Manhattan's skyline sloooowly --thousands of buildings and skins are downloaded, and then buffered to your job's integrated cards-- disappointment will set in. Worse, even

  • ...how about updating those satellite images that are many years old?

  • by GweeDo (127172) on Wednesday December 01, 2010 @12:51AM (#34400326) Homepage

    PD should hire some of these Google guys for their tree rendering!

  • I recall that CryEngine1 had an 'auto-plantation' of trees basing their distribution on climate, exposure, hill slope, etc. Very ecologically minded. It shouldn't be that difficult then to do what Google did, except that the Earth is a lot bigger than your standard CryEngine map...

    Still, imagine this in, CryEngine2.

  • by HockeyPuck (141947) on Wednesday December 01, 2010 @01:42AM (#34400740)

    With the thousands (millions?) of servers that google has, how about planting a few trees...

    • by CrazyJim1 (809850)
      Fruit trees in Haiti would be awesome. Haiti's intense poverty means a lot of their trees were cut down through exploitation. Now people are starving to death. Fruit trees would not be an immediate fix, but next year, you'd have lives saved and healthier people.
  • Google Earth is really beautiful. And really pointless. With trees it's even more beautiful. And even more pointless.

    Bah.
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  • too much time on his hands...

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