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Tim O'Reilly

Tim O'Reilly

Google Earth, Sketchup, and Second Life

If the hotel network here at Where 2.0 were faster and there were fewer people on it, I'd be downloading the new version of Google Earth, released for the first time simultaneously for Windows, Mac, and Linux! (Reportedly, the universal binary screams on the Macbook Pro.) John Hanke's demo reminded me of just how powerful a platform Google Earth is becoming. Google Maps has more public reach, but it seems to me that Google Earth will ultimately emerge as the real platform play.

What's particularly interesting is how much activity there is in adding user-generated data. Especially interesting is the way that Google is trying to get users to build 3D models of buildings with sketchup. Brad Schell gave a great demo of how to visualize a building and place it in Google Earth. Particularly impressive was the ability to search for real-world architectural elements and add them to a building you're drawing. (AutoDesk, watch out....) Lovely.

It becomes clear that Google Earth is not just a data visualization platform. It's a framework on which hundreds of different data layers can be anchored. It's also clear that Google Earth is entering into the same territory as Second Life. It's so easy to imagine all of the alpha geek behavior on Second Life hitting the mainstream via people building real-world equivalents on Google Earth. And it's easy to imagine interoperability, with virtual worlds adopting KML, so that first and second life become interoperable and connected. (I was going to ask about the Google Earth/Second Life connection with sketchup as the connector, since it seems so obvious to me, but the first question from the audience beat me to it. It's impossible to miss this idea.)

(Sketchup us now available for mac as well!)

P.S. I posted too soon! Jerry Paffendorf of The Electric Sheep Company is up on stage, talking about Second Life. He has a lovely formulation: people in Second Life are actually "living inside of a map." And because that map is of a world that is somewhat simpler than the real world, and has a more limited population, it's a great laboratory for figuring out problems and opportunities in location based services.

Jerry also talks about the fact that real world places have already been simulated in Second Life. There's a virtual copy of Hanover, New Hampshire, for example. He also demos a mashup of Second Life and Google Maps, where a gateway to a Second Life location appears as a pushpin on a Google Map.

Real and virtual are definitely on a collision course. I'm hoping that we can get more interoperability between the two, so that the streams of innovation merge like hydrazine and liquid oxygen, fueling a rocket to the future.

P.P.S. Glenn Letham points out that Autodesk isn't asleep at the switch. They just announced the Autodesk Civil 3D 2007 Extension for Google Earth, allowing civil engineers and surveyors to push their data to Google Earth. But I still think that what Google is doing with its sketchup components warehouse is amazing. I'd love to see Autodesk supporting export to Google Earth from their architectural design tools and component catalogs.

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Comments: 11

Satish   [06.13.06 07:53 PM]

We are looking at new modes of data collection & gathering.. this time architectural plans of buildings..

Is there anything that is gonna be left out by google..?

Satish   [06.13.06 07:57 PM]

Here comes one more form of capturing data, this time, Architectural plans..

Will there be some kind of information that google shall leave...

Kingsley Joseph   [06.14.06 09:10 PM]

I had blogged in May that Second Life should worry about Google Earth + Sketchup. But I don't think the real world is colliding with the virtual - I see both Google Earth and Second Life as virtual.

sparrowhawk perhaps   [06.16.06 10:14 AM]

interesting article, thank you for posting.
may i tell you please that there is also a copy of Mt. St. Michel cathedral and city at the island Shivar in SL that spooks many people who have been to the cathedral in real life. was built by a French architect, YadNi Monde.

cube3   [06.16.06 10:52 AM]

Same day as the conference MediaMachines released the kml2x3d transporter. Allowing KML and the 3d warehouse inventory to be made into the much further along iso ratified X3D web3d standard....
check out what can be done with it at
adds all sorts of multimedia way past a simple texture.)movies/ audio/avatars/url linking in world


Marc   [06.20.06 02:05 AM]

I posted an article on my blog titled "Reality as a Service (RaaS): The Case for Gworld (beta)" about how Google Earth + Sketchup + Semantic Web can be combined to to change the world.


Roo Reynolds   [09.29.06 04:27 AM]

I've got a basic SketchUp to Second Life exporter working, which I've written up over at Eightbar.

Leigh   [10.01.06 05:51 AM]

I think that the idea that google earth + sketchup is something that Second Life should worry about is a little weird. If anything I'm surprised that Linden Labs aren't trying to forge some sort of alliance with google. you'd think that two companies so fond of the concept of permanent beta would be able to get along. hahaha.

jack lucas   [12.06.06 04:15 AM]

Thing about Second Life is when you join you are offered a choice of Avatars. All have nice smiley WHITE faces, unless you want to pose as a Racoon.
And in the adult Horizons Resort, one character, Palad, says whenever the issue arises, we wishes the "furries" would stick to their own "community". He defends his views, but incites others to act. His girlfriend Felicity dismisses all Scots as "mean" and the few who have dared protest this RAMPANT RACISM have been arbitrarily thrown off the site by a defiant management

Steve   [01.26.07 05:17 PM]

Google creating their own version of second life is a great idea.

It would be a great revenue stream for them, and would allow constant use of another google platform.

keith mattison   [11.07.07 07:11 PM]

why oh why doesnt someone come up with some stiff opposition for second life, as a user of SL for over a year i have spent thousands of hours and also dollars in the game. It is fast becoming a rip off site, and i would certainly move very quickly to something a bit more fair in its charging system. It is not possible anymore to make profit out of second life, in fact it is very difficult to make the game pay its way at all,so anyone who could offer a similar alternative at a fair price would scare the crap out of the lindens and bring them back to reality (couldnt resist that lol) in any event if google decide to become proper competition for second life,,,,they would do very well out of it i am sure
regards,Keith Mattison. united kingdom

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