I am working on a new user interface for my web-based IDE, called Global System Builder. It will use a 3D map-based user interface. So how does a 3D map-based user interface work with an Integrated Development Environment? You will see in the following posts. First step is the evaluation.
I lived in
Calgary, Alberta, Canada for quite a few years and know the downtown area quite well. One of its famous landmarks is the Calgary Tower. So I wanted to see how the two major (free) players compared to the real thing (above).
Check this out, on the left and Virtual Earth 3D on the right. Hmmm… interesting. Google Earth’s picture is a drawing. Now I have played with SketchUp and it is incredibly powerful to model 3D – including the interior of a building. However, not the case with the Calgary Tower here. You may want to look at the as they have a nice inventory of 3D objects.
Now Virtual Earth’s image on the right is interesting as the software used by MS to gather and make the 3D images got messed up a bit on the Calgary Tower. However, if you look past that and compare the background buildings in the images, Microsoft’s sure looks more realistic.
Microsoft has also acquired a 3D modeling tool like Google’s SketchUp called 3DVIA. It appears to have most of the same capabilities as SketchUp, but I need to spend more time with it. And similarly to Google’s warehouse, Microsoft has a way to place your models on Virtual Earth.
Having developed both, I must say that the Google thick client is much smoother and quicker than the Windows web-based client. Meaning that when you zoom in, rotate, pan, etc., and play around with the 3D features, Google Earth’s movements are much smoother and seem to download and render much quicker than Virtual Earth. Now this could be my internet connection speed to the data centers, the number of hops or … a whole bunch of things, but, it still leaves me with this impression.
Other than that, there a very specific feature in one product that is not in the other which will make the decision for me. Wonder what it is?
Finally, a company called 3Dconnexion has developed a 3D mouse called SpaceNavigator that can fly around and through these 3D worlds and models. I have one on order and can’t wait to try it out! If you want to see what it can do, have a look at this interesting “fly by:”
I did look at NASA’s World Wind and it is really impressive, but I have not had enough time to evaluate whether it meets my needs or not. One immediate short coming is the inability to draw and import a 3D model, or so it seems…
Still trying to figure out how a 3D map-based user interface will work with a programmers IDE? Stay tuned.