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Comparing Google Maps 3D with Singapore’s OneMap3D (tongwing.woon.sg)
52 points by cow9 on March 25, 2020 | hide | past | favorite | 28 comments

This is how Google Maps (or earth, to be precise) used to have 3D models in it. Everyhting was handcrafted.

Modeling was partly outsourced for anyone willing to do it with Google Sketchup, back when Google still owned it. It however, was really labour intensive and one could see a lot of human mistakes.

Using aerial images to generate 3D models is way cheaper and faster. I’m interested to see where this project is going, but i’m a bit sceptical for a long time success.

I used to contribute to Google's 3D Warehouse (which was acquired by Trimble/Sketchup) to add few 3D buildings around Delhi in Google Earth. Teenager me was quite heartbroken when google switched to the auto generated 3D models, but clearly, as you said, manual modeling wasn't feasible at world scale.

I was most proud of a railway bridge in the Himalayas that ended up in Google Earth for a while. https://3dwarehouse.sketchup.com/model/8f5b83eb14588a6dd3816...

> I was most proud of a railway bridge in the Himalayas that ended up in Google Earth for a while.

Nice job! That looks great.

Considering the small size of Singapore it should be feasible to have some manual steps in the workflow and still have good coverage.

They probably still source a lot of the data through photogrammetry and lidar, but clean it up by hand.

Singapore govt had been in news with the development of TraceTogather app for COVID-19 detection and now this. Typically, governments, with all its bureaucracies, are not expected to build things efficiently and with quality, especially complex software which is hard to build even for a supercharged startup. So this is surprising. Someone needs to figure out what are they doing right.

> Typically governments are not expected to build things efficiently and with quality

I suspect a large source of that sentiment is just marketing, companies need to go out and sell their accomplishments, whereas a civil servant can stop once the job is done. The politicians on the other hand seems to spend most of their time selling promises about the future, rather than things they have actually done.

The largest source of that sentiment is the DMV.

The reason why typically government institutions are less efficient is that there is no inherent incentive for them to be efficient. A competitive market, on the other hand, inherently rewards efficiency.

Of course, there's nothing inherently preventing government institutions from being efficient. That can happen when you have the right people doing the right thing. However, you really want to have a system that makes the wrong people do the right thing.

A large source of it is the vast majority of government agencies. Do you want to repair X in a state park? You are looking at the arduous process to cut through. Do you need to extend your project with government grants by a month or ran over 1% of the assigned budget? You would have a hell to answer for and months to spend in meetings that will well go over 1% in officer salaries. The vast majority of US government website is pure abomination. I had been receiving end of forced to use some of them and wouldn't wish that on anyone. Some of these websites built after spending well over 100s of millions of dollars.

Anyone who thinks governments are as efficient in acquiring, retaining, nurturing talent AND equal or better execution then commercial entities, should accept the challenge of getting a government job and see how that feels likes. The exceptions like Estonia and Singapore are rare and far between but should be studied.

I tend to agree with the others that the problem you’re describing is caused by those government agencies being monopolies rather than them being government agencies — even though I’m non American (and too young anyway), I am aware of the jokes about the poor quality of AT&T towards the end of its monopoly. Conversely, quite a lot of Americans seem to like the military, which might be the single provider of USA national defence but does that by competing with other militaries.

US military is actually extra-ordinarily inefficient. It's a vast graveyard of massive projects that were either failed or went as much as 10X over budget and/or ran 10X late. In a book called Skunkworks there is some great stories of how these inefficiencies gets enforced on to even those projects that military started with startup model in mind.

The military may be popular for various reasons, but that doesn't mean it's efficient.

Also, lots of militaries around the world - including the US military - are contracting out to PMCs.

Military equipment is usually procured from private companies.

Also, most militaries are sitting there idle most of the time, so they're only competing on paper.

Let's not forget Singapore is pretty autocratic. That surely makes it easier to cut through any bureaucracy and privacy regulations, for example when you quickly need an app to track people and COVID-19 infections.

However, that also makes it easier to do the same in times of peace.

No, let's not prematurely chalk up to ideology what is more reasonably explained by a capable government and a smaller country. Autocracy didn't help China nip the pandemic in the bud. Conversely, democratic Taiwan is managing the crisis excellently as well.

I observe this reaching for ideological explanations extremely frequently in US media and citizens, and these lazy rationalizations seem to me to be one of the ways the US public sphere collectively hallucinates that that they are the freest and first in the world, while promoting ideological tribalism and partisanship, as citizens vote away their interests to protect their ideological delusion.

I've long thought this, but you've articulated it way better than I ever could, so thank you.

I'd argue that the "smaller country" explanation is also over-used.

For example, when single-payer healthcare, gun control or effective government comes up, I often hear the excuse "The US is way more populous than $nation_x so it would never work here!".

When asked to further explain their reasoning, many (certainly not all) can't seem to. It's like they never think past the nation-size excuse because it's simply accepted as fact.

I agree that "smaller country" really is also overused.

I suppose what I was getting at was the distance of the highest levels of government from the citizen. Taiwan certainly isn't a small country, but its government is certainly in a closer relationship with its citizens concerns than the federal government is with US citizens.

Singapore is nowhere near autocratic enough. China built a hospital in 2 weeks? In singapore the tender wouldn't be out in 2 weeks.

Generally theres rules. Generally the rules can be changed. But generally rules don't get broken.

> Let's not forget Singapore is pretty autocratic.

This may have been true in the 90s when Singapore was transforming it's economy but it's not true now and hasn't been the case in over a decade. It's a country with a large service economy, well educated workforce, and burgeoning middle class. It's also very tiny with a strong national identity. If the government says they are going to do something, unlike the US, the public trusts they are going to do it.

I think what matters for 3D maps is that Singapore is new. Pretty much everything was built in the last few decades. Anything older than that is now treasured heritage, and would have been studied to within an inch of its life. And the buildings are big; no doubt some architecture firm still has the Autocad files for half of them.

This would be harder in a city where lots of things date back to the 19th Century, and architects were rarely involved in building them.

Might the difference be the the quality of the Public Service in China and Singapore is much higher than elsewhere?


So this is surprising

Not really. Especially if you've been there. Singapore is considered one of the more nimble governments of the world. But it's easy to be so when you have a small population in a small area.

The words of the article say that OneMap3D is better but, to me, the images clearly convey that Google Maps 3D is better. Yes it loses some fine but they are clearly actual images of the real buildings. In contrast, OneMap3D seems to have computer-rendered models of what the buildings ought to look like.

As you look around it will presumably feel like you're playing a 3D game (one with poor lighting and texturing at that!), whereas looking around in Google Maps feels like you're actually exploring the city from above.

I thought that progressive meshes don't lend themselves well to GPU buffer objects. Always assumed that Google Maps just have a huge number of static mesh LODs for everything (which they could have generated using progressive meshes) and are okay with mesh popping.

For modern buildings, the 3D models actually already exist in an architecture firm's computers. Imagine if the city/country mandates that building plans also be submitted digitally, and the architect has to allow it to be licensed for 3D maps...

This would be very undesirable for some people. People for example who get construction permit for one thing (with bribes) but build a bit different things. "A bit different" could be additional floor, or apartments instead of office space. And yes this is happening in some places. I think reality is far better source of truth than architectural drawings. So i'm voting for google approach. And heres example of my city in 3D constructed with google approach, but higher resolution.


This is a preview of the data provided by OneMap3D programme that Singapore Land Authority is launching soon. https://geoworks.sg/onemap3d-developer-programme/

OneMap3D's approach won't handle natural landscapes, e.g. trees and rocks.

Ok, it's not really useful but fascinating to explore https://earth.app.goo.gl/Ld1b8R

Both looks great but I am use to having and seeing Google Maps. This is the first time that I have heard about SG's OneMap3D

> Both looks great

Do you really think so? I think the handcrafted models look completely out of place, due to the flat lighting.

Visually, even with the artifacts, Google's approach is better and it will get even better with better data and better reconstruction algorithms.

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