Google has announced its plans to improve 3D maps. It’s using "automated technology to extract 3D from aerial images." The effect is stunning, every building is competely modeled from street to roof. Compared to the scattershot look of Google Earth before, it’s night and day. Google demonstrated the 3D images on both Android tablets and iOS, and said the new features should be coming soon, but didn't specify an exact date. The feature should cover "several" cities, and the goal is to have a "very large number" by the end of the year.

To make the images, Google uses planes to take images at 45-degrees from four different angles — flying them in a tightly-controlled pattern with plenty of overlap. Google builds the 3D model off of these many images, using algorithms to create the shape and color of buildings. The process is "fully automated," building the 3D images without any human interactions. The system is intelligent enough to know when a certain image is blocked or shadowed, for example. The company hopes to combine the 2D mapping and vector data with the 3D images to perhaps someday provide vertical location information.