New maps use military strength 3D technology

February 28, 2011 8:00:39 AM PST
A new kind of 3D map is hitting the Internet this month. Based on military technology once classified, it uses cameras that take better pictures than laser scanners do.

In this Drive to Discover report, Richard Hart takes you on a virtual flight over San Francisco.

"So, here is San Francisco downtown," says our guide Luvig Emgård. "And this is the Transamerica Pyramid."

There is a new way to look at your world. It's a 3D map-based military photography, classified technology, until Ludvig Emgård's company C3 Technologies spun it out of aerospace giant Saab. It's unlike anything before it.

"We have everything in 3D," he boasts. "We have buildings. We have trees. We have every small hill. You can even see trucks or ferries. Everything is in 3D and it's super realistic."

Compared to the Google Earth view we are used to seeing online, the C3 view is complete and so accurate, you can make out 4-inch objects. In Google Earth, on the other hand, entire buildings are missing. Some appear only as gray blocks. Google uses humans to draw 3D buildings with something called Building Maker. C3, though, uses airplanes. Whereas, others use lasers to measure from the air, C3 uses cameras and sophisticated software to turn photographs into high-resolution 3D.

"So, everything is in 3D and it's super realistic," says Emgård.

That means trees like those on Alcatraz. In Google Earth, they appear flat and 2-dimensional. But in C3, they are real 3D objects. Our tour streamed over the Web. But what if you don't have an Internet connection?

"Well, you could take the data on board, onto your iPad for example," says Emgård. "You prepare it, for example, before you leave for Paris. Download Paris on the iPad and you can run it from there. We're looking into social and mobile applications. So, for example, on Facebook, you could be able to tag a single window on the map or say, 'Here's my party!'"

Be careful what you wish for. C3 is already moving the technology indoors too, in 122 cities.

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