3D Nature, whose Visual Nature Studio lets you build 3D landscape visualizations, has just updated their exporter, Scene Express, so that it takes advantage of some of Google Earth 4′s new KML features. 3D Nature’s Chris Hanson wrote in to explain what’s new:
I think we’re the first offering textured, georeferenced terrain translation to KML, using the COLLADA 3D object format. We also can do textured georeferenced buildings, and now proper fixed-size foliage.
KML support in the previous version of Scene Express was criticized on this blog because KML icons were used to represent foliage, which broke Google Earth’s user interface. How does the new version fare?
I haven’t seen a sample yet of the new improved foliage, so I will reserve judgement on that, but I have just seen the textured terrain feature, and this is indeed new and impressive.
Before, if you exported LIDAR-based terrain to KML, you just got a (detailed) blob built from a collection of geometries using KML:
Now, Scene Express lets you drape texture data over the same LIDAR landscape and then export it as a COLLADA .dae file wrapped inside KML. If you use Google Earth’s underlying imagery as your texture, you get a very nifty result indeed:
In effect, you can now improve on Google Earth’s default height mesh, simply by adding your own local data if you feel you need more detail. Does anybody have LIDAR for the Matterhorn? That mountain still needs some help:-)