By using Google Earth, we can since last year zoom into virtually any place in the world and even move around, rotate, and interact with 3D images of cities and buildings. By zooming in, buildings and terrain starts to appear in 3D. Once you can see the buildings, you can pan, zoom, tilt and rotate to explore the 3D environment. This is incredibly exciting and opens up for amazing possibilities for virtual tourists to learn about the world.
In England, the Yellow Pages are integrating 3D imaging in interactive maps with stunning realism by combining computer generated graphics with street level photos, as the example of London shows below.
However this is our modern world. Would it not be interesting if we could explore historic places using similar interactive technology? Well, I think soon we can. This video below is a realistic fly-though of the Tudor era 17th century London‘s tightly packed streets. It was produced by a team of six students from De Montfort University in Leicester and has been awarded the top prize in a competition run by the British Library.
The London video shows the area around Pudding Lane before the Great Fire of 1666. Some of the buildings are hypothetical, but all streets are based on original maps of the area.
If you enjoy this, below is The golden age 3D experience, which is an introduction to Dutch cities during the golden age, a period in Dutch history, roughly spanning the 17th century, in which Dutch trade, science, military, and art were among the most acclaimed in the world.
In Birmingham, the Museum and Art Gallery displays a model of medieval 14th century city.
Going back further in time, here is a video that reconstructs ancient Rome as scientists believe it was in 320 A.D.
In recent years, the ability to make interactive 3D models of the Earths surface has been greatly enhanced by graphics hardware development and by innovative new applications, like CityGML. Apart from virtual tourism, the applications for such models are many, like urban planning, navigation systems and intelligent transportation systems.