[FR] Smarter Geo Location

The whole geo location feature is currently quite limiting but has potential to be an absolutely great feature that makes people choose Sketchup over other programs. For now you can only get really, really low res and often useless terrain with quite low res imagery, with Google being the only provider.

Currently the terrain component for a geo located model is locked and feels rather dumb. There isn’t much users can do with it. To extend the terrain you need to head into the File menu for the “Add more Imagery” option and manually stitch the terrains together which isn’t very easy for a new users.
If users don’t succeed in this and want to remove the additional imagery even that can be tricky because the components are locked.

Moving the terrain to fit the building isn’t possible either.
Moving the building to fit the terrain means losing saved scenes
(unless you have figured out how to use advanced camera tools and have access to it)
and there’s a big risk you forget to select hidden entities such as cutting planes or geometry on invisible layers.

I suggest having “smart” component for the terrain that just does what users want to do and is easy and fun to work with. Scaling this component extends or crops the terrain, rotating it changes the north angle and both rotating and moving it updates the model’s geo location coordinates.

I also suggest allowing users to chose where to get both terrain data and imagery from. This could also be changed at any point from the context menu of the smart terrain while keeping the model’s position. Additional providers could e.g. be national mapping authorities. I also think the whole terrain and surveying thing is a big part of what Trimble does so it’s a bit odd that this hasn’t been much improved in SketchUp. Also terrain and site maps loaded from smart files that contains the ge location information.

Of course a lot of this could be limited to Sketchup Pro. I think the basic interface should be available for free so people can learn how it works but high res imagery and support for additional terrain providers could typically be pro only.


Video of mock up can be seen here: Sketchup Feature Request: Smart Terrain - YouTube

Many good ideas if you have the dollars and geo political clout to make things happen, even Trimble does not;
For example res. is controlled by governments. Based on SOA of spacecraft design the nascent res is in the sub meter /cm range and once you map that to the ground it may be in the meter range. I just recently read a news posting about some government asking the res. of data collected over their territory be reduced. Sorry, do not remember the details. It is also my understanding the Google Earth folks post the best data they have and they are not the only provider.
There are a limited number of stats and you can get a list by searching.
Why not post a tutorial showing the non pro uses how to best use what is available tutorial.
My guess Trimble does not use much of the Google Earth data for serious design work. They do much of the site mapping them selves using differential GPS where they can get down to mm accuracy if they want.

The available data differ greatly between different places. The city of Malmö has very nice high res maps publicly available (much better than I’ve seen on Google Maps). I think both Norway and Sweden has public API:s from the authorities for geo data.

What is really needed is a way to easily get this data into Sketchup and then easily work with it. Trimble could even sell their terrain data separately.

I’m not an expert on the workarounds people currently use to work with terrain in SU but even if I wore I don’t know if I would make a tutorial explaining it all. The interface should be self-explanatory. This is the philosophy behind the core modeling tools and I think it should apply to the features added later as well.

An important point in this is we need 3D elevation data, not simply maps with contours or “navigated” images (i.e. images that are scaled and located relative to world coordinates). In many places such data (especially if high quality) is considered militarily important and not available to the public.

but,but there data is so limited it would not be cost effective, they are not in the business of collecting World Wide data. An example of what they do: Talking to survey crew in front of house who was using GPS I asked them how they handle the datum shift vs plat etc. They noted Trimble transmits data over phone lines so they can access and get correction nearly real time vs. going back to office, submitting and then waiting awhile. Of course that is not free either.

The focus on these FR is shifting from a collection of excellent toughts, based on intuitiveness of use, towards world data.

If we’d forget who’s the imagery provider and focus on everything else, we’d have the best tool around for 3D terrain models based on (any) data that would be available.

If new Data sources would be available or alternativelly linked as Google’s right now. It would be even better.


For me as an architect it is ok to have this res for the first scratch, just to know how to go on. For more details I’ll have to ask a surveying engineer for a lot of money.

The National Land Survey here in Finland has made its data public, too, also including their laser scans.


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My heart beets for Knäckebröt and of course Sylvia and Mika Häkkinen and Kimi Raikönnen.