Since a few years, Google has stopped using SketchUp community Models to populate its 3D environment and switched to another technology. I'm wondering what GIS, LIDAR Image or 3D automatic method (it must be automatic) they are using to create this new realistic 3D environment all over the world (one can see for example underneath a bridge, under different trees and objects in 3D) ?

Google Earth 3D

  • Hope i'm not too far from GIS in my question...
    – gisnside
    Jun 8, 2017 at 9:17

1 Answer 1


Just a guess, I think the 3D effect is generated using some kind of draping of images/street views onto 3D sketches/surfaces. I guess that's where the rough edges come from.

It does not appear to be real 3D technology like photogrammetry because those technologies generate smoother, more realistic looking 3D surfaces just as if you look at the terrain from a distance.

At one point of time, I thought Google was under pressure to generate those patchy 3D trees to avoid getting legal issues about looking to peoples' backyards.

  • Actually, you can't just drape : what's in GE is much more complicated than that : with photogrammetry you have only have one Z value for each (X,Y) . In GE now , you have real 3D objects like bridges you cans see across, etc. I thought it could be some multi angle images (N, S, E, W) that had been integrated to generate auto 3D models
    – gisnside
    Jun 8, 2017 at 13:59
  • 1
    I think both photogrammetry and draping can be more complicated: a) Photogrammetry can be from multiple directions, not just vertical (e.g. from vehicles or even drones nowadays); and b) draping doesn't have to be onto a traditional continuous DEM, which cannot be seen through. It could be onto something that can been seen through, e.g. a discrete 3D sketch/vector/skeleton. But, again, this is only my guess.
    – til
    Jun 8, 2017 at 15:19
  • Maybe. Still wondering how they created the 3D skeleton though :)
    – gisnside
    Jun 8, 2017 at 15:51

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