Although I use Google Earth fairly often, I generally leave “3D buildings” turned off since my machines tend to have the crappiest possible graphics cards. But the other day I randomly turned it on and was surprised to find that Salt Lake City is now heavily populated with building models, even including some residential neighborhoods. The house above is the one that Sarah and I lived in between 2001 and 2008. At some level this model is poorly done: the front and side porches are rendered as blocks and the textures mostly just show the trees that prevented the Street View van from seeing the house. On the other hand, the model is impressive in that it got the sizes of the dormers right, both chimneys are there, and the swamp cooler (the block on the roof behind the dormers) is just about right. The rest of the houses in the neighborhood are similarly rendered.
At this point I started to wonder: Who is it that put a model of my old house into Google Earth? The model was uploaded by “buildsaltlake2,” an entity that lacks a Google profile but has uploaded more than 12,000 models. Clearly someone is systematically machine-generating and uploading models. Is this going on everywhere? Does anyone know the technology involved? It has to be based on pictures because any data on this 110-year-old house in the city offices would be sorely out of date, and wouldn’t know about the swamp cooler in any case. Also I assume there’s a profit motive, but don’t know what it is. Here’s a link to the view above.