Comparing Google 3D Tiles With Other Geospatial Datasets

In this article, we will discuss the potential of Google’s 3D tiles in visualizing physical locations and how they can enhance site-specific geospatial datasets provided by Aivia Group’s custom reality meshes.

Google's 3D Tiles: New Possibilities for Geospatial Applications

Google recently made 3D tiles publicly accessible through the Google Photorealistic 3D Tiles API and the Cesium ion APIs. These 3D photorealistic tiles have been a feature of Google products like Google Earth and Maps. However, they lacked first-party support for third-party integrations until recently. This necessitated some unsupported workarounds to access the data if you wanted to use them. The public availability of these APIs has unlocked a plethora of new commercial applications, particularly for geospatial web applications.

Google’s photorealistic 3D Tiles are part of the larger Map Tiles API, which already included satellite imagery and terrain models from various sources. It covers most areas of the earth at different levels of detail. Urban areas of these layers contain more detail than remote areas. The coverage of the newly added 3D tiles is primarily limited to high-density city areas in select countries.

Considerations for Using Publicly Available Geospatial Datasets

Several factors need to be considered when using publicly available geospatial datasets, including:

  • Project activities and requirements
  • Level of detail
  • Availability and coverage
  • Temporal coverage
  • Metadata and data integrity

Here’s a comparison of Google World Terrain & Imagery, Google 3D Tiles, and Custom Geospatial Datasets:

Google World Terrain & Imagery Google 3D Tiles Aivia Group Custom Data Capture
Level of Detail 10m - 0.5m gsd imagery. Sometimes even higher especially for geometry. Extremely variable across regions. ~7.5cm imagery. Less detailed geometry with some manually modelled geometry used for projection 4cm – sub millimetre. As project requirements demand
Spatial Coverage All of Earth at varying levels of detail City and high density urban areas Site/ project specific
Temporal Coverage Roughly Every 1-5 years, sometimes longer for very remote areas Roughly Every 1-5 years As project requirements demand
Price Fairly cheap monthly api quota pricing, available on demand Fairly cheap monthly api quota pricing, available on demand Services based project and budget. Can be bundled with the capture of many other types of geospatial data and project deliverables.

Beyond RGB Imagery and Reality Meshes

Google 3D tiles and other publicly available datasets can be an excellent option for urban and central business district areas where capturing the 3D imagery of those entire areas can be expensive. These datasets can complement and provide valuable context for custom site-specific and project data. Google 3D tiles and world terrain can be rendered in Unreal Engine along with higher detail reality meshes captured by Aivia Group.

Businesses can make informed decisions about which data to use for their specific needs by considering different datasets, desired activities, level of detail, availability and coverage, temporal coverage, metadata, and data history.

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