Interactive Mapping Blog

Mapping Solutions News

Archive for October, 2007

We’re hiring!

Tuesday, October 30th, 2007

That’s right Earthware are continuing to expand beyond our expectations so we are looking for an experiences web developer. Earthware is an innovative small start-up company where individuals can really make a difference. If you are a quick learner and keen to pickup new and exciting skills and experience then why not apply today.

For the full details of the role please click here.

3D PDF prototype

Thursday, October 25th, 2007

Adobe have recently released Acrobat 3D Version 8. This new version of Acrobat gives the user the opportunity to embed a variety of different media types into a PDF document which can then be read by anyone with the free adobe reader software.

Here at Earthware we have jumped at the chance to embed some of our 3D models into this new medium and see what it is capable of. to do this I have taken a fictional building and created a property brochure page around it.

Acrobat has the ability to capture CAD files simply by opening your 3D file in the program it was made in and using the print screen button to capture it while the 3D feature in acrobat is running in the background.

To embed directly into an existing PDF is just as easy.

All you need to do is choose the 3d tool in the tools menu and then draw a marquee in the place you want your model to appear.

acrobat 1

Once this is done a capture options menu appears with basic field parameters for the import. After selecting your options you are required to go to your 3D package, load your model and press print screen.

acrobat 2

Once print screen has been completed go back to acrobat, the OK button at the bottom of the capture tab will be activated and you press ok.

The model will load in and then be active within the marquee you placed earlier. note that you will need to select the hand tool to activate the 3D navigation panel

Download our prototype and have a go with the 3D window, you will need the latest version of the free adobe acrobat reader. It allows full navigation of the model with the mouse. to activate the tool panel click within the 3D viewer. Also note that acrobat does not show all the textures at the same time, presumably to minimize memory usage although I am working on finding a fix for this

acrobat 3

If you need adobe acrobat then click here

To download our prototype click here

Commercial 3D property interior modelling

Thursday, October 25th, 2007

For a while we have toyed with the idea of interior modelling in Sketchup for Google earth but with residential models it is impossible to navigate inside them effectively with the tools available. A larger commercial space gives more room to navigate in so we have developed a prototype with a basic interior space to test out the concept.

With some careful mouse movement it will be possible to get inside and view the interior of the building. If you have the advantage of a 3D mouse then performing a fly through will be easy. To aid things a little  there are some place marks in the tour folder which will hopefully guide you through several view points in and around the model providing they work correctly.

Click the link to download the Google earth file

Earthware Commercial Demo

feel free to leave your comments and let us know what you think

How is the Virtual Earth roadmap doing?

Thursday, October 25th, 2007

With the recent release of ver 6 of the Virtual Earth API I thought It would be interesting to look back on our previous virtual earth roadmap article to see how close we were with Microsoft on delivering their updates and features.

So here is a list of the features and the original Microsoft unofficial suggest release dates, lets see just how hard they have been working on Virtual Earth these last few months.

Safari support
Original suggested release date for this update was summer 2007, we now have almost complete Safari support just a few months later than expect. Personally this is a welcome but not exciting feature for us at Earthware, I was quiet enjoying telling mac users to use firefox ;-)

Mobile API / tileserver
Originally suggest release date was summer 2007, however nothing has appeared recently except and update mobile application. There is still not way to create your own mobile apps based on VE unless you code your own.

Rooftop accurate geocoding for the US
The timeframe suggest for this was end of 2007 and its just been released in ver 6 of virtual earth, so spot on. We have not really benefited from this yet as most of our projects are European based. It’s really only a shame the data is not available for other countries.

Polygon searching and native GIS
This always had a very sketchy timeframe and so its no suprise we have heard nothing about this on the virtual earth front. However my guess is it will be some kind of tie in with the upcomming spatial query support in sql 2008.

Better custom image overlays
There were rumors of better support for overlaying your own tiles, and still being able to add the roads layer on top. Whilst we have heard nothing more on this it is interesting to see Microsoft Researches MapCrucher (which can be used to create your own tile layers) has recently become a fully fledge Microsoft product so hopefully we will see some more development resources given to the project.

MapMeta data
This was one that got us excited as we are often asked by clients is there a way to show the date the aerial imagery was taken. However we have not seen or heard anything of this one. There was some suggestion among developers that maybe a community based project could collect and provide this data.

Street side views
Other than the preview which we talked about before there is still no sign of any news about streetside views. Meanwhile Google maps has releases its street side views to the amazement of the general public. My guess is Microsoft are still busy fixing all the privacy issues that have caused Google a few upsets.

3d Models
Microsoft talked about improving textures of their 3d modeled cities and many of these have indeed been updated which is a welcome addition. Of course here at Earthware we were waiting in anticipation for support to add custom 3d models and again with the release of ver 6 of Virtual Earth this has arrived! We have already written in detail what we think of the new 3d modeling tools but in summary we think they are a brilliant tool in first release but still lots of work to do to compete with Google Earth / Sketchup.

Licensing for imagery use outside of Virtual Earth
There has been no official word on this yet, but part of the new 3d buildings tools released with ver 6 of Virtual Earth include a way to export 3d tours as videos. There does not seem to be any mention anywhere of what you can use these videos for but at least there is an officially supported method to export imagery. It appears Microsoft have made some changes in their license agreements with their imagery partners so we can only hope more options become available over the coming months.

Updates to licensing
It was quiet clear from the last Virtual Earth partners day that Microsoft were having some issues working out how to license Virtual Earth as there was not way to actually track map transactions. This seems to have been fixed in the ver 6 release of Virtual Earth as there is now mention of using identification tokens for those paying to license Virtual Earth. It will be interesting to see over the coming months how this changes Virtual Earths currently very generous licensing options.

Summing it all up
Overall we can clearly see Microsoft have committed serious development resources to add to and improved Virtual Earth since summer 2007. Many of the features we previously mentioned are now available as well as some we did not expect like birdseye views in 3d mode. It is clear to us that Microsoft are starting to take Virtual Earth more seriously both with the increasing impressive pace of development (this is the 2nd release in 6 months) and with the better developer support we are all now receiving on the MSDN virtual earth forums from the Virtual Earth development team.

How good is the new 3D toolset for virtual earth and how does it compare with Google Sketchup

Thursday, October 18th, 2007

First I should introduce myself as I have not Blogged on here before. My name is Chris and I am the Multi Media Developer here at Earthware. I have taken a few hours to go over what’s now on offer in  the new 3D modeller for virtual earth and how it compares with my experiences using Sketch Up.

My general impression of 3Dvia for virtual earth is a positive one although it is very much a work in progress at this time, although having said that for the first available version it is a powerful tool in the making and could soon rival sketchup if enough development is put into it.

Good Stuff:

  • Drawing boxes and lines usually gives you an accurate distance and angle for the length and/or trajectory of your construction
  • Interface is simple and colourful so novice users find it easy to get around
  • Many of the useful line and surface indicators are present that are seen in sketchup. for example 3Dvia gives clear indication when you are in line with other objects or shapes as guides appear to help you
  • The manipulate tool is very effective and gives you a lot of control of specific points on an object as well as the object as a whole. it has a very visual adjustment interface giving clear colour coded handles  for the different types of adjustment

Bad stuff

  • Internet explorer seem to be unable to run virtual earth 3D on my machine so I have had to load it in Firefox instead
  • Although great for a novice the interface is frustrating because of the lack of specified tools and presets making complex models harder to create as well as standard program operation impossible. this makes the package feel like a cheap freebie rather than a fully function program. I would hope that the developers can make this a standalone program like sketchup as I feel this will be highly beneficial to its development
  • No file and option menu is present making the publishing of models and screen grabs the only useful thing you can get out of this package
  • No ability to save a file on to your own PC
  • Copy and pasting components on larger models like windows on a building fails to create editable shapes that are part of the larger mesh
  • Not all parts of a model are similarly editable as often their handles are locked out and it is not always clear why.

To summarize I would give this first version a 6 out of 10. I think its a great little program but has a long way to go before it is as powerful as sketchup and can boast as many features. I can’t imagine it will be long before it presents a very tempting alternative. It does seem Microsoft are targeting the novice user which is an interesting decision.

Here’s what I accomplished with an hour of learning and play.

virtual earth 3D

Creating your first building in Virtual Earth 6

Tuesday, October 16th, 2007

UPDATE: Earthware’s Vscapes product now offers 3d Building developments for our clients in Virtual Earth and Google Earth. For more details see our Vscapes virtual landscapes page for details and client stories.

As promised we have put together a quick video tutorial for creating your first building in Virtual Earth 6. To get started building for yourself you will need to install the new virtual earth 3d plugin and the 3d authoring tool. Both of these are installed by visiting and clicking on the 3d mode button to install the plugin, and click the "collections | add 3d model" menu to install the 3d authoring tool.

Once you have both installed you are ready to start, zoom the 3d map on to the location of your building and click "collections | add 3d model". This will open the 3d tool and import the aerial imagery from your chosen location.

Enough talking here is the video tutorial.

We will be working on some further tutorial covering more advanced features once we have had more of a play with the new functionality.

UPDATE: Thanks to Simon @ Microsoft for pointing out that if you click the middle mouse button on your model you can set the pivot point. This improves the navigation drastically, but as soon as you pan or zoom you need to re-center again, would be extra nice if it actually stated fixed to the model.

First impressions of Microsoft / Dassault Systemes 3d modeling tool for Virtual Earth

Tuesday, October 16th, 2007

UPDATE: Earthware’s Vscapes product now offers 3d Building developments for our clients in Virtual Earth / 3dVia and Google Earth. For more details see our Vscapes virtual landscapes page for details and client stories.

We have spent the morning playing with the new Virtual Earth modeling tool, see our tutorial for some examples. Having used Google Sketchup extensively for 3d models in Google Earth we have a good idea of what is required to quickly and effectively create property models.

The interface

The interface is very clean and simple and has most of the tools we would expect from a basic 3d modeling program. It is very easy to create basic shapes and modify them into more complex models. Rotating and resizing models is done very simply as well. The texturing interface is also a pleasure to use making fitting textures to models a breeze.


Navigating your model

Navigating around the 3d space however is far from perfect. There does not seem to be a way to center the rotation of a model around the center point of the model, so simple operations like rotating the view around the model are very clunky. Also there is not support for different viewpoints which are often very handy when modeling. There are a few mouse shortcuts to help navigate like middle mouse button to pan, mouse wheel to zoom and middle mouse button and left mouse button together to rotate. These shortcuts make it a bit simpler to move around but this could be much improved.

Integration into Virtual Earth

The integration into is seemless and very simple. Once in a collection in you can add descriptions, more details urls and photos to each model. You can also add basic 3d tours as described below. Right now of course you can only get models into not into your own map mashups but there is promise from the development team that this is coming soon, hopefully with the V6 api release.


To see how models work in see our sample collection.

Video / 3d Tours

If you hover over a model in your collection and choose “edit properties” you will see a box with a “3d tour” tab appear. This lets you add a basic tour to the model with a start position and angle to spin around during the animation. It would be nice to see a more advanced multi stage tour that could include multiple models.

If you then click on the actions menu in the collections box you will see a “tour in 3d” option, this allows you to playback the animations you have added to models in your collection. There are simple controls the playback the tour and a red record button to output the tour to video! Below is an example tour video.


Overall this is a great step for Virtual Earth, having a very simple to use 3d editor is the first step to getting user created 3d content into Virtual Earth. It will take a few versions before these tools can start to rival the Google Earth / Google Sketchup combination but for a first release this is really great.

Of course the biggest issues is that currently you cannot import you own existing models, everything has to be created from scratch. This is a major issue for us at Earthware so we will be investing some time experimenting to see if there is any “unofficial” way to do this.

Microsoft Virtual Earth Version 6 has custom 3d model support!

Tuesday, October 16th, 2007

Microsoft have today release Virtual Earth 6, at least on the site that is. You can read the full details here but here is a summary of the new features for 3d modeling:

What’s supported

  • Support for creating you own 3d models using a standalone tool created by 3dVia (Dassault)
  • Import of models into collections
  • Creation of 3d tours in your collection which you can share with users. This has a dvd style play pause interface
  • Creation of videos of your 3d tour (no mention of what permissions you have to use the video)

What’s not support

  • No way to import existing models, all models have to be created in the standalone tool, although you can import textures
  • No way currently, although is comming later this year, to use these models in your own map mashups
  • Limited tour options seems to just be 360 rotate at the moment so no tours with different viewpoints like Google Earth
  • 3d Videos are heavily watermarked etc and no sign of license agreements specific to these, although we may have missed them

This is a great achievement for Microsoft and gets them closer to Google Earths 3d suport but there is still a way to go yet before we at Earthware will be able to use these new features for our clients.

We are working on some tutorials and demos at the moment and hope to post these later today with our updated impressions.