Google unveils full 3D Google Earth feature

Google uses advanced 3D imaging to create full 3D maps, which will come soon to Android and iOS.

Google shows off the 3D feature on San Francisco. Josh Lowensohn/CNET

Google unveiled a full 3D version of Google Earth today.

The service allows users to move around, rotate, and interact with 3D images of cities. Google said it expects the service to work for a few major cities for Android and iOS in the coming weeks.

"We're trying to create magic here," said Peter Birch, product manager for Google Earth. "It creates the illusion you're flying over the city.

The service is expected to cover the location of 300 million people by the end of the year, Birch said. The ultimate goal is to get it everywhere.

Google is using advanced 3D rendering technology to create the images. The company did a demonstration of the feature in San Francisco, moving around the city and getting full images on the Android tablet.

Google is investing in planes to take shots of the city, and using automated technology to extract 3D images from the aerial shots. Birch said the company has been working on it for years, but the quality of the images on Google Earth wasn't high enough until now.

The technology is different than the patchwork of images and renderings currently used, which Birch said isn't as accurate or visually pleasing.

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