Friday, November 21, 2008

3D Book Browsing: A Library in the Earth API

Posted by Oliver Oxenham, PeekSpy

Hi, I'm Oliver Oxenham, posting about the National University of Singapore (NUS) Library 3D interior mapping. After investigating a few other development options, we decided to go forward with Google Earth Plugin especially because of its API's ease of use -- there was no need for us to reinvent the wheel in the area of 3D display in the browser and camera movements in a 3D environment.

The NUS library features a few innovative uses of GE plugin as well as Google App Engine. App Engine is the platform that controls all the information you see in this 3D application. We offer our customer an administrative interface to allow them to create their own placemarks (landmarks) within the 3D library as well as choose to make them visible or invisible. The contents of the landmarks are editable. It can display formatted text or even videos. Additionally, customized orientation tours can be created on the fly by the user who only has to select a list of landmarks and arrange them in the order they want the tour to play.

The GE plugin displays a 3D model of the NUS library with the earth covered with a black layer so as to make the model stand out more and avoid distracting the user with unnecessary features. The navigation on the right is automatically generated based on the landmarks created by the user. It allows the viewer to navigate through the library from landmark to landmark.

The application also allows 3D book search. Google App Engine datastore keeps a catalogue of book call numbers and shelf references. When the viewer enters a call number in the search box, the latitude and longitude of the appropriate shelf is retrieved and located in 3D.

All these adds to the fact that we are using the GE plugin for an interior 3D of a building instead of the usual outdoor of an area. We believe that a lot of our implemented features can still be improved and we're working hard to improve them and make them more generic and reusable in the future. We believe 3D interiors can be attractive to some customers.