Google upgrades SketchUp, Google Earth

Google has updated two of its most popular software tools, Google SketchUp, and Google Earth.

Google SketchUp 6 includes a new feature, Photo Match, which adds the ability to create a 3D model from a 2D photo. Photo Match also allows users to apply photos to model surfaces and link photos taken from different angles to represent multiple sides of a building.

The upgraded version of Google's 3D modelling application also has a new Styles feature. This lets users apply styles modes, such as watermarks or something Google calls Sketchy Effects; the ability to give models a hand-drawn look.

Google SketchUp 6 also includes a 3D text tool, as well as improved speed and user interface. The models created in Google SketchUp 6 can then be placed into Google Earth, which was also upgraded yesterday.

Apart from the usual mapping and satellite images, Google Earth 4 mixes textured 3D images of famous architectural sites and terrain - such as the Louvre in Paris, or the Grand Canyon - when relevant layers are turned on.

"It's just one more step on the path of creating a life-like 3D model of the whole planet," said Google in a statement.

Google Earth's 3D Warehouse overlay is where this rich 3D architecture will end up. Users can rate and review the models, which are classified by level of difficulty based on the number of polygons needed to create them.

Anyone can create a 3D model - either of a well-known place, or their house or office - using Google SketchUp and upload it to the 3D Warehouse. If it is approved it will show up in Google Earth.

Other improvements in Google Earth 4 include an easier user interface, and a slightly different-looking navigation and layout.