Lil' Globes
August 12, 2018 8:07 AM   Subscribe

Little Big City takes a map location and turns it into an adorable 3D globe: NYC, Hong Kong, Versailles, Chicago, Angkor Wat. Created by programmer Yi Shen

Not all locations in the world have 3D data, but you can experiment with your own places by going to Google Maps, selecting a location, then right-click / control-click on the map and choosing "What's Here?" and then clicking on the Lat/Long. Then in the sidebar you'll see the coordinates in the decimal format that Little Big City uses (but note that Google displays them as Lat/Long and Little Big City orders them Long/Lat)
posted by gwint (7 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
at my lat/lon we're just outside the true 3d rendering of Boston and surrounding area. It still picks up the houses, and it displays these just as short polygons. Meaning: I could see my house from here.
posted by Nanukthedog at 9:49 AM on August 12, 2018 [3 favorites]

The extra building/architectural details (for lack of a better term) that created the 3D effect are only available in cities where that data has been added to OpenStreetMap (OSM).
(OSM - in a sense, is like wikipedia of geographic data, in terms of licensing and crowdsourcing, and real-time updates) (there's no formal relationship with wikipedia and OSM).

Nextzen (features the same tech stack and of Mapzen (previously on mefi - 1, 2)) later processes the OSM data and serves in a more developer-friendly format so those like Yi Shen can produce this globe.

In the cities that have the 3d buildings and features, the 3d building data either comes from the city itself (as a part of its open data program)
- Boston is in fact, one of the few cities (at least in the USA) that releases 3d data of their buildings. Nanukthedog, it's possible that based on where you live, the 3d data is available, but not yet added to OSM.

In other (and likely the case in most cities), the 3d data for OSM comes from OSM users who trace out the data from aerial imagery and/or enter the building's height (in terms of stories; and a few cases where the building footprints and the building heights/stories may be from the city's open data program). The renderer assumes that the building is square, doesn't have any fancy architectural details, the building's height is consistent, and guesstimates the height of each floor.

There's a bit of work/research by amateurs and tech companies to automate and more accurately create and detail 3d buildings and features from aerial imagery. Google and a couple other companies have a workflow/system but it's expensive and proprietary.

One of the positive developments for the possibility of acquiring this type of information:

One of my mentors, for lack of a better term, works at the local parks system and is developing OpenDroneMap - a free kit (free as in finding a stray puppy on the street but costing you time and money to understand it, to train it to your preferences, etc) of software and tools to create 3d models of areas you fly a drone and obtain and then use the software to create 3d models of wetlands, nature reserves (measuring foilage changes, tree canopy coverage, etc), monitoring erosion, etc.
posted by fizzix at 11:16 AM on August 12, 2018 [4 favorites]

It didn't work for me on Mac using Safari, but did work in Chrome. There is probably an optional Safari feature you can enable to get it to work there.

Disclaimer: I worked on Chrome.
posted by w0mbat at 11:49 AM on August 12, 2018

Safari 11.1.2 Mac is working for me.
posted by gwint at 12:02 PM on August 12, 2018 [1 favorite]

It's been awhile since I've seen something so instantly purchaseable. Surely 3D printers could do this in maybe hemispheres? Maybe quadrants. A little hand finishing and a hanging stand or something...jackpot! IANABusinessperson.
posted by rhizome at 4:07 PM on August 12, 2018 [2 favorites]

Is there something weird about the latitude/longitude? If I google "Chicago latitude longitude" and also click the 'Chicago' link in the post, the numbers do not match.
posted by panhopticon at 9:36 PM on August 12, 2018

Safari 11.1.2 Mac is working for me.

Same version here didn't work. Possibly my fault for having some 3D gubbins option turned off.
posted by w0mbat at 1:17 PM on August 13, 2018

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