Google's photogrammetry software new Building Maker application

We reviewed Google’s photogrammetry software new Building Maker application, and just recently I gave it another whirl. While there are some new technical improvements (freeform polygons, new block options, and six new cities), it’s the concepts and implications of the system that continue to impress us.

One of the best things about the system (and hopefully photogrammetry geospatial vendors are thinking about this as well) is that it’s 100% web-based. All you require is a browser plug-in. Compare this with other government or private mid to large-scale mapping efforts: these typically involve setting up local image servers in each office, and then shipping imagery around on hard drives. Not ideal, but these are the realities when a single raw image can be 1GB in size. While the photogrammetry software geospatial market has a lot of image server solutions, not many organizations are delving into the imagery hosting/warehousing/serving business. The current model is largely based on setting up your own infrastructure and hosting environment.

We have a feeling this may represent the beginning a shift in how large/mid-scale mapping is performed. While Building Maker photogrammetry software is a rudimentary toolset for 3D feature extraction, the idea of delivering browser based tools instead of desktop apps will open up a lot of opportunities. For one thing, Building Maker is a great proof of concept for web-enabled mapping tools that don’t require thick desktop software installations.

While a photogrammetry software SOCET SET or PRO600 user may find Building Maker tools to be relatively basic, we shouldn’t underestimate the level of complexity in developing such a solution. Mapping technology pre-dated software, and the commercial tools that are currently available have a high level of sophistication. Hence, I don’t have any sort of expectation for a web-based replacement anytime soon. The use of oblique imagery instead of creating some sort of stereo WMS viewer is a clever move by Google though.