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Urban planning can come to life with this new trick that allows planners, developers and local governments look at models of current plans and even update them for future thinking. These instructions give the group a model to look at, touch and redesign.

Some folks found a way to 3D print full color cityscapes directly from Google Earth.

Google Earth is a fantastic free resource provided by, of course, Google. The system has somehow obtained 3D scans of vast areas of our planet, including most major cities. With Google Earth you can almost literally fly through cities, swooping between skyscrapers and zoom into fine detail on a street.

If only there were a way to access those digital 3D scans for 3D printing.

It turns out that there really isn’t a proper way for Google Earth to provide an API to get at that data, so it’s kind of “in jail” on Google.

But then, Reddit contributor “amishrefugee” posted this:

Coworkers and I figured out how to make full-color powder prints of chunks of Google Earth.
Aha! Perhaps they’ve discovered a secret digital access point into the Google Earth data?


What they did was far simpler, and ridiculously ingenious: they used photogrammetry.

Photogrammetry is a method of 3D scanning in which optical images of a subject are captured from different angles. By examining the motion of the background between images, it’s possible for a specialized software system to gradually develop a 3D point cloud - and subsequent 3D model - from the images.

These folks simply used Google Earth’s views as if they had been operating a drone in the vicinity by positioning the view in a circular pattern around a target cityscape area. The resulting images were fed into a common photogrammetry tool and converted into a 3D model, as per the usual practice.

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