WUSTL program builds “Live3D” maps from webcams, GoogleEarth

The Eiffel Tower and other world-class icons viewable online via webcams are getting a new three-dimensional look thanks to an innovative, browser-based application recently unveiled by Austin Abrams, a Ph.D. candidate at Washington University in St. Louis.

“We wanted to make Google Earth and geospatial databases a little more alive,” explains Abrams in a Feb. 1 article published on the Web site of the science news magazine New Scientist.

Google Earth may put conventional maps to shame, but its satellite and aerial imagery shows the world as it used to be, rather than as it is.

Abrams’ browser-based application, called Live3D, offers online visitors a method to replace the usually static “skin” of virtual buildings and other features with images from the Archive of Many Outdoor Scenes (AMOS), a collection of live feeds from hundreds of webcams around the world. The Live3d system maps 2D webcam images onto a 3D model of a location or landmark.

For example, at night it clothes the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France, with the same light-studded darkened surface seen by the webcam.

Abrams, a graduate research assistant at Washington University, is pursuing research on the Live3D program as part of his work with the Media and Machines lab in the Department of Computer Science in Arts & Sciences. Setting up Live3D to accept a particular camera feed is straightforward. Abrams offers detailed instructions on using Live3d in the YouTube video embedded below.