The geoweb is going 3D. Google is bringing Google Earth into the browser via a plug-in. Photosynth, 3D photo collection creator and viewer, is moving into the Microsoft’s Virtual Earth team (this was posted about on July 26th; the post was removed, but is still findable in the cache’s of both Google and Live). Google’s Panoramio, a location-oriented photo-sharing site, has released their own 3D-ish photo viewer (see the Sydney Opera House and launch coverage on Google Earth Blog). And the geo teams of both Google and Microsoft have their own 3D modelers, Sketchup and trueSpace (more info) respectively.
However the imagery that you see in VE or Google is not 3D. That is where Earthmine, a Berkeley-based startup is hoping to come in (Radar post). They are currently mapping four cities with NASA technology and a custom-designed camera rig. Each pixel in an image is assigned 3D coordinate. Capturing this data allows for a multitude of future applications.
Their current, private environment is dogfooding their own API. In it you can see some of the promise of 3D mapping (and some beautiful imagery). They enable you to to tag a location or add a virtual object. You can also select points and measure the real-world distance between them (as shown in the screenshot).
Earthmine’s four-city Beta is going to be launching in the Fall. They are currently looking for launch partners. Personally, I am hoping that at least one iPhone app is made with their data. If you have an Augmented Reality app for the iPhone in you (or any other app that could use rich 3D data) contact them via their Beta Signup page.
Earthmine spoke about their vision and product at Where 2.0 2008. You can see the video after the jump: