Microsoft’s Live Search Gets 3D City Models

Microsoft has taken the wraps of Virtual Earth 3D, an update to its online mapping service which now offers three-dimensional views and models of the real world. Further, Microsoft has integrated mapping options into its Live Search.

“The release of Virtual Earth 3D is a significant step toward creating a truly new dimension in search not only in the look and feel of the experience but in the way consumers and advertisers can be involved,” said Steve Berkowitz, senior VP of Microsoft’s Online Services Group. “Local search is one of the fastest-growing categories online today, and adding features like 3-D will only help move the category further ahead and help Windows Live attract more customers and advertisers.”

When visitors click the “Maps” tab on Live Search results pages, they can see their search results in a map context which offers two-dimensional views or three-dimensional models using Virtual Earth 3D; Virtual Earth 3D compiles photorealistic 3D models with photographic images of cities and terrain to present results with “engineering level” accuracy.

Three-dimensional models are initially available for 15 U.S. cities, including San Francisco, San Jose, Seattle, Boston, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Detroit, Phoenix, Houston, Baltimore, Atlanta, Denver, Dallas, and Fort Worth. Microsoft plans to add additional cities; terrain 3D imagery is available around the globe. Select major U.S. cities also have real-time traffic information as well as personal and business directory listings.

And there’s another way Virtual Earth 3D will resemble the real world: ads everywhere. Microsoft will be offering “virtual billboards” in the 3D view. We wonder if soon we will also be treated to litter, panhandlers, bad traffic, and inclement weather?

(Note: Virtual Earth 3D’s maps only work with Internet Explorer, so we’re afraid this one is Windows-only, kids.)

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