I was honestly super excited when I heard about Ovi Maps 3D, a web application that allows you to fly through a number of select cities in a textured, 3D model with enough realism to be used for a wide angle city shot in your crappy backyard movie. While 3D building were, of course, nothing new, I’d only seen either a few buildings here or there on any given web app, or 3D vector buildings on a mobile device which are clearly less realistic. The idea that this new Ovi Maps feature might one day make it into WP7 mobile devices like a phone was an exciting proposition.
Naturally, a week later, Google releases it.
Coming in the form of Google Earth, not Google Maps (um…why are these two separate applications again?), the ability to fly through 3D textured buildings was added as part of a revamp that brought about Honeycomb tablet-friendliness. It’s a welcome addition to the app I use once a year, and I’m sure they’ll get around to updating more useful apps like Google Reader.
I kid around with Google but, in truth the app is actually pretty…..okay? I was kind of surprised but, after using Ovi Maps implementation of the feature, I was a little disappointed. Not only were the load times somewhat slow on my Xoom (over WiFi), but occasionally the buildings would simply stop downloading altogether, leaving me with something that looks closer to a water color impressionist’s interpretation of what a building might look like, rather than an actual building. To say nothing of the fact that, while I can’t quite name what the problem is, moving around in Google Earth, while it using all the same functionality like pinching, tilting, and rotating, feels different than the very same motions in Google Maps. It seems like, for example, that Google Earth and Google Maps have different center points when you begin rotating in a tilted view, and panning while tilted seems to move you by a much farther distance than in Google Maps. It’s jarring to say the least.
Then again, Google just gave me the ability to pick up my touchscreen tablet and fondle the Empire State Building in full, 3D, multitouch glory for free. Hard to argue with that. Hit the source link to download.