We all knew it was coming, David Maguire of ESRI's forthcoming own Virtual Earth - ArcExplorer - mentioned some time back that Microsoft were 'hoovering up data', but now its out in Beta Release, Microsoft's Virtual Earth 3D is impressive. Running directly in the browser (IE, XPSP2 only) Microsoft currently feature 15 cities in 3D, but not the Google Earth type 3D, fully texture mapped 3D direct from the server.
Where as Google Earth's 3D Warehouse allows similar detail, you have to download individual buildings and slow down is notable when over 5 or so landmarks are selected. Microsoft's Virtual Earth however streams in the data in such a way that performance is impressive considering the amount of textures on display.
It is too early to do a Google vs Microsoft comparison, but for shear eye candy Virtual Earth is ahead of the game, albeit to a limited number of users. How did they make all of these models? Its basically all down to money. City building is still time consuming but if you have enough corporate backing they can be built and visualised. Below we feature a flythough of Boston for all those Firefox or Mac users out there that are unable to use Virtual Earth:
The question now is what happens to all the other visualisation companies building cities out there? Sure there will still be a market for high end visualisation but the bar just got raised, combine this with the forthcoming Microsoft Photosynth and a number of people (including myself) must be getting twitchy and looking at their CV's.
Time for a new job? Do you want fries with that?
As a side note, they have not featured London yet, and we have a model ready to roll if anyones interested, they do however feature the London Eye which is back to front. Its good to know that even the big players need a little help sometimes..
Thanks goes to Frank from the Google Earth Blog for the heads up regards the beta release, we were too wrapped up modelling a church in Newham, London, to notice. A movie of which will be online soon...