I decided to try out the Virtual Earth 3D that Microsoft just started to offer and I can’t say that my experience blew me away. I went to the local.live.com like I was told to do and clicked on the 3D button. Oops, silly me, there isn’t Firefox support so I had to open it in Internet Explorer. Okay, not that big of a deal because I should have expected it.
So I had Internet Explorer open and clicked on the 3D button just to be prompted with a window to install some software. I thought I was viewing this in a browser so that I could get away from installing software? Heck, if I’m downloading something I would rather it be a program that I can use. I was still a little skeptical but played along to try out this “revolutionary” service.
I finished downloading the program and tried to install it on Windows Vista and it just wouldn’t do anything. The progress bar would never move so I ended up restarting my computer a few times, disabling a few programs from starting when Windows starts, and finally got it installed 45 minutes later! By this point I thought that this thing better make me drool.
Okay, I’m all set to go now. Where’s the first place that I go to on the map? Chicago…because it’s where I’m from. I figured that there would be a limited number of cities available that are able to display 3D buildings but there are always the most popular ones like Chicago and New York City that get done first. As you can see in the Chicago skyline above I was terribly wrong.
After doing a little research I was able to find out that they only support San Francisco, Seattle, Boston, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Baltimore, Dallas, Fort Worth, Atlanta, Denver, Detroit, San Jose, Phoenix, and Houston. Despite my horrible experience with getting everything installed and setup the result was kinda cool. It is neat how they add the texture to the buildings but I just can’t get over not having New York City and Chicago in the mix of available cities.
Microsoft did find ways to make money off of doing this though. They have “billboards” that they display when you are looking at some of the 3D views and they actually fit pretty nicely inside the maps. One of the billboards that I saw was sitting on top of a building and looked almost like a real billboard. I think I was more intrigued trying to find the placement of the billboards than I was looking at the 3D buildings themselves.
Virtual Earth 3D is a cool service but it doesn’t live up to the praise that everyone has been giving it. Hopefully Microsoft expands their coverage to some of the larger and more prominent cities that people would love to see in 3D because this could be useful for tourism.