Progress in online mapping technologies happens in "in leaps and bounds" and then it stalls for a while until the next breakthrough energises new cohort of followers and imitators. It has been eight years since Google introduced its Google map and Google Earth to the world. Since then there has been a good progress with "flat mapping" applications but the 3D branch did not progress at the same pace...
A few years back a UK online directory yell.com was the first major internet portal I came across that deployed point cloud 3D mapping technology. It was quite an impressive application and certainly worked well in a browser without any plug-ins. For a moment it looked that this technology could be the next catalyst for a rapid advancement in presenting spatial data in three dimensions. The UK government even termed 3D point cloud spatial capability as a “map of the future”. I write about it in past tense because you can’t find the application on yell.com any more (although, you can still probably find some old youtube videos demonstrating its capability). So, yell.com is now using “old and boring” Google Map instead and its
users are deprived of quite an innovative 3D visualisation capability.
Little I knew that the application was actually developed by a Swedish company C3 Technologies, an offshoot of SAAB. When the company was acquired by Apple, the application was pulled from the market – presumably to be improved and to be re-released at some later date.
But that capability is not entirely lost to the rest of the world. It is not clear whether Apple sold the technology or else but now Nokia emerged as a primary user the C3 Technologies mapping capability in its 3D online maps.
Also, an Australian company Euclideon is now offering an SDK with a very similar 3D point cloud capability to anyone who would like to integrate it with their own spatial software. The technology was long in the development and has a fair share of skeptics – it was first unveiled in 2003 and was initially aimed at interactive gaming market but is turns out it is better suited to spatial applications. In 2010 Euclideon received a $2 million grant, the largest awarded by the Australian Federal Government under Commercialisation Australia initiative, to take this technology to the market. Hopefully, it is only a matter of time the new generation of 3D cloud based maps will start to appear on the web. The first taker of Euclideon technology is AEROmetrex with aero3D Pro but it is only a desktop version...
Map of the future
Apple 3D mapping quest
Yell.com 3D map