Tons of new features in Virtual Earth

To go with the new ClearFlow traffic, Microsoft has just released a slew of new features for Virtual Earth.  They include:

  • Export collections to GPS using KML, GPX and GeoRSS.
  • Improved 3D cities.  Las Vegas, Dallas, Denver and Phoenix are now in “version 2″, which includes higher-res textures, more buildings and even rendered tress.  Other cities will be added/updated as time goes on.
  • Better 3D modeling using 3DVIA.  Microsoft’s answer to SketchUp, 3DVIA, has seen a handful of improvements.
  • Labels for Birds Eye imagery.
  • MapCruncher Integration.  MapCruncher allows you to do overlays in a similar manner to Google Earth.  It’s more complex than needed for simple overlays, but it’s very powerful for large or uneven overlays.  With this release you can add your MapCrunched layers to your Collections, then share them.
  • Capture hi-def movies of your tours, up to 1920×1080.
  • Improved KML display.

For more, check out the full post on the Virtual Earth / Live Maps blog, or read Frank’s write-up on the Google Earth Blog.

Microsoft launches “ClearFlow” traffic on Live Maps

Microsoft has just released “ClearFlow” traffic data on Live Maps, but it’s far more interesting than you might think.  While it shows the colored traffic speeds in a similar manner as Yahoo, Google and Mapquest, it also goes much deeper.

From Search Engine Land:

In addition to real-time traffic data, the service offers traffic predictions across highways and improved information on secondary routes and surface streets. Horvitz said that this predictive modeling has proven to be very accurate in Microsoft’s ongoing development and refinement of the program. Based on artificial intelligence, as well as dynamic traffic monitoring, ClearFlow appears to be quite a bit more sophisticated that competing systems.

This could easily become the best traffic data on your PC.  Of course, therein lies the problem — it’s chained to my PC.  It’s very useful to get traffic data when I’m at my desk, but it’s brilliant to be able to get it while I’m on the road.

Here’s what needs happen next:

  • Microsoft releases a version of Live Maps Mobile, with similar features to Google Maps Mobile.
  • One of them steps up and includes turn-by-turn GPS into their mobile software.  GMM is so close to being the killer mobile app.  I can get turn-by-turn directions.  It can see/follow my GPS.  It just won’t tell me how far until my next turn!  I have very high hopes for the next version of GMM, but it’s been very quiet on that front lately.  A push from Microsoft would be a great thing for us consumers.

StreetView coming to Google Earth within a few weeks

According to Rafe Needleman of Webware, StreetView will be available inside of Google Earth “within a few weeks”. Rafe quotes an unnamed source with that info. He states that it’s not clear if this will be a public release or an internal testing release.

If done smoothly, this could be very slick. It’ll be interesting to see how Google implements it. I found one odd statement in his post, though. He states:

Google’s aerial images are seamlessly integrated into Google Earth already, in contrast to Microsoft’s Live Search Maps, which forces the user to turn on the “Bird’s-Eye” mode to see aircraft imagery.

What? Either he’s never used Virtual Earth (Live Maps, etc), he’s confused, or I’m mis-reading his statement. Still, it sounds way off-base. Bird’s Eye imagery is in addition to the “aircraft imagery” (which I assume means “satellite imagery”), and it’s a neat option to have. For just viewing normal, flat imagery, Google Earth works essentially the same as Virtual Earth.

Anyhow, this StreetView news is pretty cool. It’s been a long time coming, so I’m hoping it’s integrated in a creative and useful manner.

Some background on how Virtual Earth creates 3D buildings

The Virtual Earth 3D blog has a post today that explains in detail how they create each 3D city.  From the article:

Microsoft’s acquisition of Vexcel Corporation, a 20-year old provider of remote sensing solutions, provided the Virtual Earth team with a broad background in photogrammetry, geospatial data production, and digital elevation model (DEM) generation and refinement.  The models and their texturing are generated from aerial imagery generally captured at a 15 cm ground sample distance (GSD) by planes flying at roughly 5,500 feet over the target city and capturing a minimum of 5 views for each building (top and 4 sides). Since the Vexcel acquisition, this aerial imagery is increasingly being captured using the Vexcel UltraCAM series of high-resolution digital cameras, providing Virtual Earth’s 3D display with sub-meter accuracy.

Along with being able to generate massive numbers of models per city, they’re also able to load quickly for each user.  In fact, this is one of my favorite things about Virtual Earth.  They’ll load 3D models very quickly and very low-res, then slowly sharpen them up as you zoom in on them.

Google Earth, on the other hand, can only load full-res models.  Google’s models tend to look a little better than the ones in Virtual Earth, but the quantity and load time make VE’s cities look much better.

The full article goes into much more detail, and it’s well worth reading.

Hybrid view coming to Virtual Earth’s Bird’s Eye imagery

Turner Field in Bird’s Eye viewOn April 10, Microsoft plans to release Virtual Earth version 6.1.  Among the enhancements:

  • Enhanced experiences with bird’s eye view in 3D, and new bird’s eye hybrid view.
  • Reverse geocoding for U.S. users.
  • Walking directions for North America and European Union users.
  • Traffic-based driving directions.
  • New cross-browser support.
  • Improved printing support for maps.

That’s quite a bit of good stuff.  While I’ve always been impressed with the rate of imagery added to Virtual Earth, I’ve felt that they’ve been behind Google Earth/Maps in terms of features.  Improvements like this are helping them to narrow that gap.  Many of these are things that Google Maps can already do (cross-browser support, traffic-based directions, etc), but it’s nice to see them continue to catch up.

Bird’s Eye imagery has always been a unique feature that they have, so adding hybrid support to that will be neat to see.

March Imagery update for Virtual Earth

As always, it’s a huge update.  This one totals over 42 TB!

There was no new 3D data added, but a lot of ortho and a TON of new Bird’s Eye imagery.  Here is the full list, or you can just go view it right now.

Orthos

USA

  • Las Vegas, NV
  • Denver, CO
  • Phoenix DT, AZ
  • San Luis Obispo, CA

Austria/Switzerland Orthos:

  • Vienna, Austria
  • Bern, Switzerland
  • Basel, Switzerland
  • Innsbruck, Austria
  • Salzburg, Austria
  • Klagenfurt, Austria
  • Zurich, Switzerland
  • Geneva, Switzerland

United Kingdom

  • Norwich
  • Ipswich
  • Cambridge
  • Hereford
  • Ludlow/Diddlebury Region
  • South Coventry
  • Bury St. Edmonds

India

  • Mysore, India
  • Ranchi, India
  • Mangalore, India
  • Lucknow, India
  • Guwahati, India
  • Amritsar, India
  • Surat, India
  • Taj Mahal, India
  • Jamshedpur, India
  • Koshikode, India

China

  • Fuzhou, China
  • Baotou, China
  • Macao, China
  • Wuhu, China
  • Xuxhou, China
  • Taipei, China

Obliques (Bird’s Eye)

North America

  • Pickens Co, AL
  • Cullman Co, AL
  • Blount Co, AL
  • Sebastian Co, AR
  • Jefferson Co, CO
  • Hendry Co, FL
  • Milton Metro, FL
  • Orange Co, FL
  • Atlanta Metro, GA
  • McHenry Co, IL
  • Peoria Co, IL
  • McLean Co, IL
  • Du Page Co, IL
  • Belleville Metro, IL
  • Monroe Co, IN
  • Scott Co, IA
  • Polk Co, IA
  • Linn Co, IA
  • Saginaw Co, MI
  • Washington Co, MN
  • Dodge Co, MN
  • Clarke Co, MS
  • Holmes Co, MS
  • Issequena Co, MS
  • Montgommery Co, MS
  • Yazoo Co, MS
  • Washington Co, MS
  • Humphrey’s Co, MS
  • Leflore Co, MS
  • Sharkey Co, MS
  • Sunflower Co, MS
  • Tippah Co, MS
  • Union Co, MS
  • Madison Co, MS
  • Pontotoc Co, MS
  • Perry Co, MS
  • Calhoun Co, MS
  • Desoto Co, MS
  • Chickasaw Co, MS
  • Lafayette Co, MS
  • Copiah Co, MS
  • Franklin Co, MS
  • Warren Co, MS
  • Simpson Co, MS
  • Pike Co, MS
  • Marion Co, MS
  • Lincoln Co, MS
  • Smith Co, MS
  • Lawrence Co, MS
  • Jefferson Co, MS
  • Jefferson Davis Co, MS
  • Wilkinson Co, MS
  • Grenada Co, MS
  • Jasper Co, MS
  • Carroll Co, MS
  • Lauderdale Co, MS
  • Walthall Co, MS
  • Tishomingo Co, MS
  • Claiborne Co, MS
  • Quitman Co, MS
  • Panola Co, MS
  • Scott Co, MS
  • Adams Co, MS
  • McKinley Co, NM
  • Sullivan Co, NY
  • Steuben Co, NY (FILL)
  • Binghamton Metro, NY
  • Mahoning Co, OH
  • Madison Co, OH
  • Pickaway Co, OH
  • Delaware Co, OH
  • Lane Co, OR
  • Lehigh Co, PA
  • York Co, SC
  • Beaufort Co, SC
  • Knoxville Metro, TN
  • Gibson Metro, TN
  • Stephenville Metro, TX
  • Taylor Co, TX
  • Orange Co, TX
  • Erath Co, TX
  • Fort Bend, TX
  • Coryell Co, TX
  • Hidalgo Co, TX
  • Manassas Co, VA
  • Chesterfield Co, VA
  • LaCrosse Co, WI

Europe

  • Graz, Austria
  • London, UK
  • Wigan, UK
  • Cheddar, UK
  • Harlow/Sawbridgeworth, UK
  • Lille Tourcoing Roubaix Villeneuve d’Ascq, France
  • Charleville, France
  • Amiens, France
  • Civitavecchia, Italy
  • Agrigento, Italy
  • Novara, Italy (update)
  • Verona, Italy (update)
  • Almada, Portugal
  • Kristiansand, Norway
  • Vaasa, Finland
  • Arona, Spain
  • Detmold, Germany
  • Gütersloch, Germany
  • Nordhorn, Germany
  • Ruhrgebiet Region, Germany (partial)
  • Koblenz & Neuwied, Germany
  • Gummersbach, Germany
  • Paderborn, Germany
  • Limerick, Ireland
  • Carlow, Ireland
  • Wexford, Ireland
  • Navan, Ireland
  • Cork, Ireland
  • Tilburg, Netherlands
  • Helmond, Netherlands

Was your area updated?  Go check it out!

New 3D and Birds Eye data in Virtual Earth

Not quite as big as their last few updates, but this one still has quite a bit.

The list includes:

New/Updated Birds Eye Cities in the US

  • Etowah Co, AL
  • Mobile Co, AL
  • Monterey Co, CA
  • Boulder Co
  • Broomfield Co
  • WashingtonDC.
  • Cobb Co, GA
  • De Kalb Co, GA
  • Muscogee Co, GA
  • Macon Co, IL
  • Will Co, IL
  • Rowan Co, KY
  • Fayette Co, KY
  • Anne Arundel Co, MD
  • Grand Rapids Metro, MI
  • Detroit Metro North, MI
  • Cottonwood Co, MN
  • Buncombe Co, NC
  • Greenville Metro, NC
  • Wilson Co, NC
  • Lancaster Co, NE
  • Strafford Co, NH
  • San Juan Co, NM
  • Binghamton Metro, NY
  • Butler Co, PA
  • Westmoreland Co, PA
  • Greenwood Co, SC
  • Williamson Co, TX
  • Fisher Co, TX
  • Salt Lake City Metro, UT
  • Hampton Metro, VA
  • Alexandria, VA
  • Arlington Co, VA
  • Spokane, WA

Full details can be found on the Virtual Earth / Live Maps blog.

Microsoft’s answer to Google Earth Sky set to launch on February 27

Outer SpaceAccording to TechCrunch, Microsoft is set to unveil a product called “Worldwide Telescope” on February 27. This product will be used through a Windows-only downloadable application.

It sounds a whole lot like the “Sky Mode” in Google Earth. From the article:

Users will be able to pan around the nighttime sky and zoom as far in to any one area as the data will allow. Microsoft is said to be tapping the Hubble telescope as well as ten or so earth bound telescopes around the world for data. When you find an area you like, you can switch to a number of different views, such as infrared and non-visible light.

They say it will be much better than Google Sky for two reasons:

  • More data, which sounds reasonable. I don’t have the numbers to say for sure if that’s accurate or not, but it certainly sounds like this will launch with a TON of data.
  • A better user interface, which is “seamless as you move around the sky and zoom in and out”.

I don’t know about you, but Sky mode in Google Earth is pretty seamless to me, especially with the SpaceNavigator. I sure hope Microsoft includes support for it when they release this new product.

Microsoft adds Caligari to Virtual Earth team

Caligari logoMicrosoft has just announced that they have added Caligari, makers of the 3D modeling software trueSpace, to their to their Virtual Earth team.

Plans for implementing Caligari into Virtual Earth have not been revealed, but it certainly has a lot of potential.  One item that I’ve seen mentioned a few times already is the possiblity of a “Second Life” type of feature, or perhaps just another way to put high-quality 3D into the globe.  In any case, it should only mean more good stuff for us to enjoy!

Two big customers move to Virtual Earth

Microsoft has just announced that two big customers have migrated over to Virtual Earth.   From their site:

  • Yellowbook, The largest independent yellow pages publisher, has migrated their application from Mapquest to Virtual Earth in order to take advantage of VE’s advanced rooftop geocoding and maps.
  • Windermere released Property Point 3 and in so doing migrated from a mapping solution built on ESRI and Google mapping to the V6 Virtual Earth platform.

That’s a couple of big-time clients.  I wonder how the numbers stack up in terms of Google Maps vs. Virtual Earth for these kinds of companies?