U.S. Green Building Council’s headquarters

[Cross-posted from the SketchUp blog]

You could call our friends at Igloo Studios “multi-taskers”. While they mainly concentrate on creating products and plugins for designers and architects, they also have a podcast, a SketchUp training program and a popular book.

Their latest project is a virtual tour of the U.S. Green Building Council’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. (Note: you’ll need the Google Earth plugin installed to view).

This project is cool for lots of reasons. For starters, USGBC’s 75,000-square-foot facility is loaded with efficient and innovative green features that have earned the building a LEED Platinum rating. Professionals regularly tour the USGBC for real-world examples of successful green practices.

USGBC headquarters

However, not everyone has the luxury of being able to visit Washington DC, so Igloo Studios built this one-of-a-kind Google Earth tour of the building. Using a custom instance of the Google Earth plugin and building product catalogs from the 3D Warehouse, Igloo was able to create a tour of both the exterior and interior of the building!

The tour features interactive elements

As you navigate through the 3D building, you’ll notice it’s jam-packed with other goodies like a guided audio tour, photos and embedded videos. You can even click on the building’s materials and products to learn more about the green tech used in its construction.

Once you finish the tour, you can launch a test that will earn you the same continuing education credits that you would get for taking the live tour.

And the coolest feature of all: if you find a building product during the tour that might be useful in one of your projects, you can download it directly into your SketchUp design!

Learn about building materials and then bring them into your model

Trip to the Super Bowl with Google Earth

We’re two days away from one of my favorite events of the year, the Super Bowl (and I’m sure I’m not alone!). I’m one of those fans who starts watching football during pre-season and can have entire weekends ruined if my team loses. For me, the Super Bowl is the culmination of hours spent glued to the television and more hours doing post-game analysis (read: arguments) with fellow football enthusiasts.

However, what I love most about the Super Bowl is the tradition around it. It’s a time when friends and family get together and stuff their faces with nachos and beer, argue about who they wish were performing at halftime and watch the two best teams in the league slug it out for the storied Lombardi trophy. Even the commercials are good!

Unfortunately, not all of us can have the luxury of being at Cowboys Stadium – site of Super Bowl XLV – for the game, so we thought we’d offer users the next best thing: the Cowboys Stadium in 3D for Google Earth. Watch the video below to fly to Arlington, Texas and see the stadium in 3D.

You can also visit the stadium in Google Earth by searching for “Cowboys Stadium, Arlington TX” (make sure the 3D layer is turned on). Or, click here to see the area in your browser with Earth view in Google Maps.

We hope you enjoy the game as much as we will. Oh, and go Packers!

Posted by Gopal Shah, Google SketchUp team

What Steve Coast’s Move to Bing Really Means

OK, sure — there is a rush to blog the news. Steve Coast joined Bing. But leaving it at just that news misses the whole point of what Bing/Microsoft wants and why Steve would go join the Bing Maps team.

One benevolent dictator for life welcomes another to his domain.

Microsoft and OpenStreetMap

Remember this news a couple months ago?  It was cute right?  Nothing earth shattering, just another layer to do your Bing Maps mashups over (assuming you are one of the 5 people who have ever done that).  But deeper something else was going on.  See Google broke the detente that the vendors had with the data providers. (can you believe that was barely a year ago?)  In doing so it put a ton of pressure on the other mapping API vendors to change how they did business.  Despite the problems with Google Maps, the one thing it had going for it was that it could be updated.  Microsoft was stuck with the old model.  Navteq is authoritative1 and that means it takes months to update the data.  Google’s navigation might have been totally borked, but at least they controlled it.  Microsoft and MapQuest didn’t have the luxury.

Time to Bail!

So MapQuest went first and in a big way.  Not only did they announce they were breaking with their data vendor, but they were also going to donate money and time back to OSM to help further the project along.  Already MapQuest’s Open website is running and those at least in the UK are happy as clams.  But despite all those German OSM mappers doing great work in the middle of Europe, for OSM to be viable it needs to have a workable/routable map in the good old USA.  This was the whole concept behind those Cloudmade ambassadors.  The idea was they could have succeeded if they had the map right.  Well the reality of the scope of the project killed Cloudmade’s efforts and the USA has lagged behind.  What the OSM project needed was some company that could do the heavy lifting and move the project forward in the USA and other parts of the world where it needed help.

Enter the 500 lb Gorilla

So here we are.  Microsoft needs to get involved with OpenStreetMap to continue to be relevant in the web mapping space and OSM needs Microsoft, their aerial images, their big pocketbook and their need to dominate all spaces they exist to join up.  Simple as pie, right?  Oh, but wait — the minute Microsoft enters the community, they’ll be a huge backlash.  I mean the goal of Microsoft is to put a proprietary OS on everyone’s desktop (at least that is the feeling I got from an OSMer at WhereCamp5280).  Ah, but remember this wonderful news?  Who better to represent Microsoft with OSM than one of the founder’s of OSM!

The Way Forward

So what does this mean, really?  Short term, not too much.  The OSM data in the USA is still not good enough to route with2.  But the better aerials will improve the USA greatly and quickly.  If there is one thing that Microsoft has done well, it is the aerial imagery in the greatest democracy south of Canada, north of Mexico; OSM-US .  Plus rather than investing in their technology to route with Navteq, they’ll push those efforts toward OSM routing and BOOM; we’ll have a working, routable OSM map that everyone can use.

Makes you wonder about Google’s choice to roll their own now doesn’t it?  How quickly Google’s map looks like it will be a drag on their innovation.  Between the OSM mappers, MapQuest, Microsoft and all the others who are part of the open project; I see no way OSM doesn’t dominate the market as the choice for mapping data moving forward.  And you know who wins, everyone who wants free and open data.  That’s the take away — congratulations to Steve Coast because he sure deserves success, but the real winners here are you and I.

1. By authoritative I mean busted and old business model.

2. Flame away guys, but you’d be wrong to think otherwise!