Peter Birch, Product Manager for Google Earth, skirted around these points, although SketchUp was never mentioned by name in the entire presentation. He shared a demonstration of Google's new textured 3-D mesh rendering. We saw an early version of this "automated technology to extract 3-D from aerial images" in Google's Building Maker. I wasn't a fan of this modeling technique at the time because, although it was easy to model with, the results were no substitute for buildings modeled with SketchUp. But Google's current version provides the solution that is comprehensive, consistent, and accurate. It uses a much greater amount of data called "oblique imagery" that is collected by planes. The photo imagery of a city is gathered from all angles in a series of gridded flight patterns. Next "stereo photogrammetry" constructs the 3D models out of a textured 3D mesh from the images. It was an impressive demonstration and showed just how far Google has come since Building Maker. Now Google can create a 3D city that is complete without the gaps of missing buildings, has a consistent textured appearance, and it will be deliverable across all devices.
This is just the beginning. Google has only mapped a dozen or more cities around the world with this technique but as they so obviously demonstrated - there doesn't seem to be a limit to the growth they can accomplish in a matter of years. When SketchUp was sold, I had a feeling my modeling would become obsolete. It remains to be seen what extent this will come to fruition, but I anticipate I'll be reduced to the 21st century equivalent of modeling a ship in a bottle. It makes me sad and a bit angry when I think of the hours that so many users contributed to help create much of Geo Google's value without any thought of compensation. At the same time I am envious of Google's ingenuity and the prospect of the future. Indoor maps for subway stations, hiking trail maps, and a greater amount of interactive tours are on the near horizon. I suppose the lesson learned is- if you're going to embrace technology, then it doesn't make sense to stand in the way of progress.
You can see the full press conference below. The stereo photogrammetry is covered at 37:40