3-D London from iPhone Maps App


WARNING ! This page needs parallel free-viewing in stereo – or an OWL stereoscope!

For my relaxation (a rarity!) today (Sunday) – I spent a lot of my time marvelling at the achievement of the people who do 3-D modelling for the iPhone Maps app. It’s incredible. They somehow capture enough information to construct a virtual 3-D model of the entire structure of London, almost brick by brick … well, certainly wall by wall. I have no idea how they do it, but there must be a significant amount of manual hours put in as well high-power computing. They have only done this for a central area so far, from about Tower Bridge to Kensington – but within this area, no matter where you go, and no matter which direction you choose, you can get an amazing rendition in three dimensions – a kind of model village. There are approximations … some of the walls look as if they’ve been modelled out of clay, and the trees are approximated to solid blocks, but I love it. The first position I found myself strolling around today was Knightsbridge. I just took a screen shot, then ‘stepped’ to the right a little bit and took another screen shot. Like the rocking on the feet technique. This is what I got. To do this, you have click on the blue ‘buildings’ icon at the bottom of the screen.

Harrods in 3-D

Look! It’s as if we were suspended above the street with eyes 10 feet apart. How did they do it? How did they get rid of the cars and the people, that would have confused things?

Walking a bit further on, we get to the Victoria and Albert Museum. Amazing! Look how the process has only reached this road – Exhibition Road; beyond it, the landscape looks flat. I’m looking forward to the Albert Hall and memorial. You can see to the right the small quadrangle which was my favourite place to revise for my degree exams as Imperial College. It has an elliptical lake in it now – but in those days it didn’t – it had a wonderful giant Buddha at one end.

V and A stereo

But see how the tower is rendered in lifelike detail ? And they had to somehow photograph it from many positions to get it to look right from all angles. To prove it … here it is captured from the other side. Those trees are strange ! But how astounding is that detail on the roofs ? (or rooves)

V and A from the North

Are we getting into it? OK – here’s Buckingham Palace … and to the right corner, the tower on which I stood to play ‘God Save The Queen’.

Buckingham Palace stereo

That’s impressive enough as a picture, but then you can zoom right in … That’s my spot at the bottom corner … I think I can see a guitar pick I left behind !!! Those temporary structures weren’t there at the time.

My Tower

For this one we are at the other end of the area the iPhone Maps people have constructed in 3-D … the Shard and Tower Bridge … this almost gives you vertigo.

Shard and Tower Bridge stereo

And here is the Southern limit … Battersea. I was looking for the Pig … but just look at that monument with 61 million bricks.

Battersea Power Station

OK – now here’s the Eye. They evidently had to do some approximating here … but I think looking through it towards that strange foot-bridge which had to be rescued from bouncing itself to bits is pretty stunning.

The Eye - stereo

But you can make your own stereos, if you’re addicted to them like I am.

Well, that’s enough relaxation – I am back on the trail of vaccination for badgers and cows tomorrow – it’s become a challenge I cannot let go.



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