Check out C3 cities: your eyes will thank you

where20 foursquare badgeThe practicality of 3D content is often overstated; I’ve not yet found an example in the geo world where 3D genuinely compliments, rather than hinders, usability. The high-resolution city models produced by C3 attracted significant attention at this year’s Where 2.0, and may in time prove to be the exception to the rule.

The C3 team dropped jaws with a few sneak previews of their product at last year’s Where 2.0, and their CEO Mattias Åström spoke yesterday; I followed up today with C3 PM Ludvig Emgård who provided me with a few shots of their local Bay Area work that I can share here:

C3 Model of Golden Gate

Downtown San Francisco

Stadium Birdseye

You’ll see that these are not projected images with the occasional visual 3D model spiking out of the plain, but complex and immersive topographic textured wireframes. C3 do their own flying with a five-camera rig (flying between the fog multiple times over San Francisco) and resultant data are crunched automatically over “a couple of days” per city. C3 are rolling out at a modest pace with 5 cities now available in the US and 50 in Europe. Little forthcoming product, partner or launch details are available for 2010 but we’ll see, quite literally, much more C3 in the coming year.

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  • David Colleen

    Models like this have been available for about a decade. They have never taken off because if you look closely at them something like an orthogonal building is represented as what we call a “pile of coal”. Because of this, they are not really of use to any traditional users of 3D city models. Notice that all views of these models are taken from thousands of feet in the air!

    Better models, similar to what you see in Google Earth, use aerial photos, automation and human labor. Most of this work is done in India today despite the claims of full automation by big corporation marketing departments. Check out top notch work by companies such as Computamaps, Precision Lightworks and Sanborn. Since these models are based on aerial imagery, they are not super accurate and do not look good from ground level viewing angles.

    The best 3D city models are based on 1cm or better ground level photography rectified against survey data and sometimes using laser scanning. We continue to build models this way because it gives the best product… albeit expensive. Many are working on the automation of this approach including Google, SAIC, Harris and Navteq. This is where you will see the real tech innovations in the coming years. Exciting times ahead!

    David Colleen, Planet 9 Studios

  • Tyler Bell

    David, your comment is slightly disingenuous in that I do not make claims on the novelty or precision of these models — only that they are stunning. However if pressed I would certainly take issue with your conclusion on what makes ‘the best’ 3D city models, especially divorced of context and use case — there are a great number of players in this game and and an equal number of evolving approaches; exciting times ahead indeed.

  • Richard Carlsson

    If you want to try out creating applications with C3 data yourself today, check out the 3D Landscape API on Ericsson Labs:

    It lets you create your own 3D applications for Android or Java ME using the 3D map data from C3.