Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Apple Maps in 3D

The much maligned Apple Maps has improved its product in many ways. I bought a new computer for the first time in many years so I'm just discovering this not very new feature-the 3D models. They are accompanied by flyover tours of selected cities such as Seattle.

Apple acquired a Swedish company called C3 Technologies, that created 3D models of buildings based on aerial flyovers and guided missile technology. They were then able to quickly create a huge database of building models worldwide. Having tried to do this in SketchUp, (which I believe Google uses for their 3D buildings,) I have an appreciation for how much work each building takes. Unfortunately Apple's maps are only available on Apple devices. Google Maps has more extensive 3D coverage (and available to everyone with a web browser) but Apple's models are clearer and cooler looking. They also draw more smoothly.

Some gimmicks have been added. For example, In London Big Ben will always show the correct time, though it would be more accurate if it was lit up when it's dark there. Also, the London Eye is animated! 
Some more examples:
Mount Rushmore
The Bromo Seltzer Tower in Baltimore
Here is a comparison of Google's vs Apple's 3D view of the above tower. Google's model is on the left.
Most articles online about Apple Maps are full of snooty comments about how bad they are. Google still has the edge over Apple Maps in many respects and StreetView is a huge reason to continue using them. However, in recent travels I've found Apple Maps more helpful for locating restaurants, hotels and other businesses. I use both of them (as well as Here Maps and even Mapquest) and do not strongly advocate one over the other but Apple Maps is definitely worth another look.

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