There has often been (I must say premature) speculation that the days of dedicated GPS units are numbered, but when that day does finally come could this be one of the more interesting spin-offs for the surrounding technology?
Judging by a joint announcement from geographic information provider Blom ASA and digital maps and dynamic content provider Tele Atlas, the answer is a resounding yes. The two companies have just signed a five year agreement to speed up the development of 3D city maps and elevation models.
"Demand for 3D maps on personal navigation devices and in local search applications is rising, as consumers everywhere want more realistic views of what is around them," said Tele Atlas CEO Bill Henry. "Blom's vast library of 3D imagery is of the highest quality, and will allow us to deliver fully three-dimensional products in more than 250 cities worldwide in 2009."
"This is an exciting milestone in the navigation industry and marks the start of bringing 3D maps to the masses," added Blom CEO Håkon Jacobsen. "Our solutions will significantly improve the user experience across all map devices and applications, and with Tele Atlas as a leading partner, put us in the strongest position to deliver the best features."
Of course sat navs will be on the receiving end of this tech but interestingly one of the first products out the gate is a free iPhone app called 'Demyko' (pictured) which lets users move around the world in an Google Maps-esque manner but with simply incredible 3D imagery and the ability to look from north, east, south or west. It's a genuine set-up from the Google Earth satellite view and I highly recommend you check it out.
So while only in its infancy, there is certainly promise for 3D mapping but let's get it into Google Maps quick sharp-ish perhaps chaps?
Update: Right ladies and gents/men and women/geeks and geekettes we've got some clarification.
Gavin Lewis from Blom has explained "Just to clarify that the image of the iPhone application is an example of Blom images used from the Blom URBEX online platform. This differs from the 3D models that will be developed for the Tele Atlas partnership, as it uses oblique aerial images. For the agreement with Tele Atlas we will create 3D models, where the aerial imagery is draped over terrain models. We look forward to sharing these in the near future."
Suddenly makes perfect sense - and given the impressive Demyko photography it suggests we should have high hopes for the actual 3D modelling when it does touch down. I'll post snaps as soon as they're available.
Update 2: Now THIS is more like it, the real 3D mapping sat nav shots - this really could revolutionise GPS displays... (in order: Lyon, Munich and Stanvanger)