Virtual Earth / Live Maps being rebranded to Bing

As you’ve likely heard, Microsoft has unveiled it’s new Bing search engine.  As part of that rebranding process, other Microsoft applications are getting renamed.  Of particular interest to us are the new names for their mapping products.

Live Search Maps will now be simply called “Bing Maps”, and the Virtual Earth platform will now be known as “Bing Maps for Enterprise”.  Much more about this can be found on Chris Pendleton’s blog or by watching the video below.

Microsoft Integrates Photosynth into Virtual Earth

photosynth-logoThis could be pretty cool.  Microsoft’s remarkable Photosynth software now is playing nicely with Virtual Earth.  From their press release:

Photosynth software analyzes digital photographs and generates a 3-D model by “stitching” the photos together. These models, or “synths,” can now be viewed using Silverlight technology across multiple platforms. Virtual Earth brings together features, functionality and content that help consumers, businesses, citizens and governments bring location to life. It helps businesses and governments share location-based information, build better connections with consumers or citizens, and helps organizations make better operational decisions. With the integration of Photosynth into Virtual Earth customers will be able to create detailed 3-D views of anything from places to products and from hotels to homes.

Greg Sterling has some good ideas on how companies could best use this, covering ideas such as real estate  and retail stores.

Microsoft releases massive imagery update for Virtual Earth

virtual-earth-jan09

Virtual Earth has been quiet lately, but Microsoft has just released a TON of new imagery for it.  No new features like Google Earth’s sweet update, and still no new 3D buildings, but the amount of imagery is quite impressive.

New Bird’s Eye imagery in France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Romania, Spain, Sweden, the UK and a ton of places in the US.  In addition, they’ve added a ton of High Res Othos and Satellite imagery in a wide variety of locations around the world.

Get all the details about this release here.

WorldWide Telescope now available for download

Two days ago we told you it’d be here this month, and it’s out already!  As reported by Ogle Earth and the Virtual Earth Developer Blog, you can go download it right now.

Some initial thoughts:

  • It really is a stunning tool.
  • It has SpaceNavigator support (sort of), but it tends to freak out as soon as you touch it.  Not sure if it’s a driver issue with the SpaceNavigator or a bug in WWTS.
  • You can via the earth (or any other planet) inside of the application.  However, you don’t get 3D buildings or anything like that — just imagery.  Still, it’s a neat feature to have.

Enough talking — this is one of those things you really need to experience for yourself.  Go get it!

Virtual Earth Imagery Update

Microsoft has apparently just added 22TB worth of new imagery to Virtual Earth. The only nice tidbit we know so far is that Australia finally has some Birds Eye imagery.

Assuming this is accurate, I expect a detailed announcement from Microsoft shortly.

Google Earth vs. Virtual Earth in Denver

Denver has emerged as one of the flagship cities for both Google Earth and Virtual Earth. Google Earth has built a ton of 3D models in the city, and Virtual Earth has already converted it to “version 2.0″ with over 100,000 3D models (as well as 300,000 trees). Therefore, I thought it’d be a good place to compare some things.

I already did a quick comparison of Turner Field in Atlanta, but that wasn’t completely fair since Atlanta isn’t an updated city in Virtual Earth.  For this comparison, I picked three different locations in the city and captured similarly positioned screenshots from each of the two programs.  In each set of pictures, the Google Earth image is on the left, and the Virtual Earth image is on the right.

Please note that this brief review is about visuals only.  This doesn’t get into usability, extendability, layers, etc.  This is just graphics, pure and simple.  A more in-depth review will come later.

Coors Field

The trees add a nice touch of realism in the Virtual Earth model, but the Google Earth model blows it away.

City Overview

They’re pretty comparable here. Virtual Earth has more buildings in view, but overall they look quite similar.

Downtown Park / State Capitol

Here is where Virtual Earth really shines. The extra buildings in the background and the trees look excellent. Google has a few nice touches (such as the statues) and the building looks a bit better, but the trees really make the Virtual Earth page feel more realistic.

Conclusion

All in all, things haven’t changed much — they’ve just scaled up. Just as before, Google’s buildings look a little better, but Microsoft has a ton more of them. This should be a fun battle to watch over the next few years!

Google Earth 4.3 thoughts, screenshots and a video

Google Earth 4.3 is just starting to become available. You probably won’t find it through the normal pages yet, but the Google Earth Blog found a clever loophole to allow you to get it now — simply visit this page and you can grab it.

My initial thoughts:

StreetView is neat, but not very useful. The version on Google Maps feels much smoother and easier to use.

The sunlight feature is very cool! Terrain and buildings look different as the day progresses and the light hits them from different angles. Terrain also casts shadows, though 3D buildings do not. Here is a short video showing some areas transitioning from day to night:

As expected, the 3D buildings load much better. Also, there are a whole lot more of them in many cities. It appears that some are auto-generated, but Google hasn’t confirmed that yet. I’m of the personal opinion that they automatically generate some, but then hand-tweak each of them, but that may or may not be accurate.  Google Earth Blog weighs in on this as well.

Also, many cities now have a bunch more 3D buildings in them. According to the Google Earth Blog, San Francisco, Baltimore, Raleigh, Charlotte and Phoenix are some of the cities with new buildings. I can confirm that Atlanta has new ones as well.

In particular, Turner Field (home of the Atlanta Braves) finally looks good. I was at a game a few days ago and took a picture with my cell phone (N95 rocks!). Here is a comparison of that photo to a similar view in Google Earth 4.3 and Virtual Earth:

It’s worth mentioning that Turner Field in Virtual Earth is still a “1.0″ building, so it’s likely to improve once Atlanta is updated. Also, I still can’t get over how cool the trees look in Virtual Earth. That being said, the stadium looks way better in Google Earth. It’s not even close.

Here are a few more screens I grabbed:

Have you tried it yet? What do you think?