Disney World 3D has finally arrived in Google Earth

It’s a few weeks later than we expected, but Disney World is now 3D in Google Earth — and it’s impressive!  They’ve included the Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Disney Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom and Disney Resorts.

There are actually two parts to this:

  • The normal 3D buildings layer will add all kinds of visual goodness, such as buildings, trees, statues, etc.
  • The special Disney layer will add information about the parks and the hotels.

To activate the 3D buildings, simply check the box next to “3D Buildings” in the “Layers” tab like you normally would.

To activate the Disney layer, go to “Gallery -> Travel and Tourism -> Walt Disney World”.  Once you’ve turned that on, along with the 3D buildings, fly down there (KML) and check it out.

The 3D aspect of this is stunning, but be warned — it’s very graphically intensive.  I’ve got a pretty solid machine, and it slowed it down quite noticeably.  Still, it’s well worth checking out.  Have fun!

Update: Frank Taylor has just made a nice little video that takes you through the 3D Magic Kingdom.  Check it out:

Miami is now “version 2″ in Virtual Earth

About two months after the first four “version 2″ cities were released, Microsoft has just unveiled Miami 2.0.  Like the other four cities, it features a massive increase in the number of buildings, along with a whole bunch of 3D trees.  According to the Virtual Earth 3D blog, Miami now has 46,344 3D buildings (up from about 4,000) along with “hundreds of thousands” of trees.

To be honest, I’m a bit disappointed with the pace of these new cities.  They’ve bragged a few times that these cities are generated through a “100% automated process”, so I expected a few new cities per month.  To only have one new city after two months is a bit of a letdown.  That being said, Miami looks awesome and I can’t wait to see more!

Trees and Highway Overpasses

I’ve long felt that two things would need to happen to get to the next level in 3D imagery — trees and highway overpasses.

Since one of the neat features in Google Earth is the ability to fly a route, having proper overpasses would make things look much better.  The latest version of Virtual Earth has some cities modeled in “version 2.0″, which include a number of advances.  To the right is a bridge over a river.  While the bottom is still solid (you can’t see the river under the bridge) and the edges are rough, it’s really coming along nicely.  The tighter mesh of elevation data is getting us closer to where I’d like to see it.  I would think we’ll see some real progress in this area within the next year or so.

The bigger problem is the lack of trees.  Amazingly, Microsoft has begun to fix that already, too!  I really felt that was still well off in the future, but I’m glad I was wrong.  It only works in their “version 2.0″ cities (Las Vegas, Dallas, Denver and Phoenix), but it’s really neat.  As Google Earth Blog had speculated, the trees are generated automatically by Microsoft.  Hand-placing thousands of trees would be an impossible task to keep up with.

In addition, the trees don’t affect load time very much.  They only have to load a given tree type once, then tweak the height and diameter for each placement of it.  As such, I’ve found the trees load very quickly — usually before most of the buildings.

I’m a bit concerned about performance, though.  The tree models look excellent, and with thousands of them scattered around a city, I have to think that it’ll make things move a little slower.  I’m currently out of town on an old laptop, so everything is slow right now.  When I get home to my primary PC I’ll really start putting it through it’s paces.

Microsoft says that the updated data will roll out to the current set of 250 3D cities “soon” and I’m really looking forward to it.