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Necessity, Mother of Invention and Awesome.

I rarely get very excited about new technologies, because most new technologies from large corporations are seemingly a lot of reshuffling and repackaging of old things, and sometimes a bunch of bug fixes long over due.

But Baidu’s 3D game-like pixelated 3D Map (map.baidu.com) of Chinese Cities has to be one of the coolest things I have seen in years.  Much better than the 3D maps on Google, which are really just 2D maps plus some incomplete CAD drawing looking renderings. Gizmodo dubs it:

The result is amazing.

And Baidu did it, because they found a way to live with censorship laws, instead of merely complaining about them.

*Incidentally, US just published a “notorious pirate list”, naming Baidu as almost number 1, for “deep linking” to piracy sale material, and listing multiple Chinese locality and companies as pirate markets.

It also listed 10 top BitTorrent sites, acknowledging their massive piracy problems.  However, barely mentioning that most of these are based in North American and Europe, and a few in Russia.

With Gizmodo calling:

C’mon America. Do this! USA! USA! USA!

Western journalist, get ready to report copy cat!

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  1. March 2nd, 2011 at 10:55 | #1

    Baidu is truly awesome in getting this out. Maybe they have plans for making this available outside of China?

  2. March 2nd, 2011 at 10:59 | #2

    What’s wrong deep “deep linking”? It’s called “freedom of information.” Just as the U.S. pride itself in allowing users to sort out “facts” from “fictions” in the media and the Internet, allowing a perversion of disinformation to be given to the populace, China allows a “responsible” version of freedom to the people. The government will make sure people do not get a steady dose of disinformation and hate speech, but will allow companies such as Baidu to bring knowledge in all forms to the people, letting people decide whether they just want to peruse knowledge or pay a marked up price to fill the coffers of rich companies in perusing that knowledge?

    But what about the pauper writer or artist?

    Give me a break. We are not talking about the pauper writer or artist here. Copyright is broken. It serves the entrenched corporate interests, not the general public.

    Besides, come to think of it: the pauper writer or artist do not seek to money from poor people in developing nations. Only big pharma, movie studio, and software companies do.

  3. March 2nd, 2011 at 11:03 | #3

    What I wonder is: how does Baidu intend to keep the maps updated? I’ve worked in software companies, and it was hard enough keeping the screen shots updated in the manual, much less the texts…

    Business idea: should we approach Baidu to make virtual China tours or make virtual games based on real regions in China?

  4. March 2nd, 2011 at 11:27 | #4

    I suspect Baidu is doing it by virtualizing a 3d map out of available satellite photos, perhaps with some architectural construct fitting.

    It’s probably very manual intensive any ways. I played around with it for Shanghai, there is a lot of blank places for where there are port facilities. Baidu probably “censored” some of those locations specifically to get around the no satellite image rule, for national security reasons.

    If Baidu makes those 3D models publicly available, it would be awesome! It would spur so much business development.

    There might need to be some standards to allow users to contribute into a 3d virtual world. Almost like 2nd life, but better.

  5. deldallas
    March 2nd, 2011 at 13:49 | #5

    If you look at the trees near 天坛 in Beijing, you can see the trees are replicas of each other. So it appears someone had to illustrate all of this. Looks cool, but seems pretty labor intensive if everything is being manually recreated.

  6. March 2nd, 2011 at 13:57 | #6

    Or if you know a tiny bit of software engineering, the way you do it is simply get the coordinates of that park, calculate the surface area, take icons of a tree, and plot it down. You could get fancy and even randomize the placement a bit to make it look more natural.

    But, sure, if you have a more socialist mindset, you employ people to lay down the trees one by one on the map. The long term competitive advantage in that is a much much more natural looking 3d map.

    The good thing is Chinese society has the luxury to do this. This is a competitive advantage Baidu has over Google. Google being a jerk can have some consequences if the company is unable to fully entrench itself in the Chinese market.

  7. SilentChinese
    March 2nd, 2011 at 14:07 | #7


    yeah I can see how some creative software engineering can cut down hugely on the manual part.

    take multiple set of overhead aerial/sat photos. use some recongnition software to get each building’s surface texture. categorize and fit your best fit building skin to each building. then correct by hand.

    but it would be more interesting if they have something like a wikipedia/baidu tieba type of community built sim-city. may be release a standard set for free and let everyone build their city as they see it?

    Best part is this could have infinite way to generate revenues! imagine.. ads in virture city on build boards.

  8. deldallas
    March 2nd, 2011 at 14:36 | #8

    This site deserves some credit too:

    The Shanghai and Beijing maps look as good as the Baidu ones. Plus they have 3D maps for smaller cities like Kunming, etc.

  9. Wukailong
    March 2nd, 2011 at 18:34 | #9

    Wow, completely awesome! I’m having too much fun with this. Unfortunately the apartment complex I’m staying in is just outside of the mapped area, otherwise it would be complete immersion.

  10. March 2nd, 2011 at 19:29 | #10

    @WKL, how far out is your apartment? I swear I saw your car outside a nearby supermarket? 😉

  11. Wukailong
    March 2nd, 2011 at 21:48 | #11

    Allen, if I drove a car here, it would take me 2 hours just to go to work… 😉

  12. March 2nd, 2011 at 23:31 | #12

    @WKL, but you wouldn’t drive, you’d bike, right? Given your fitness level, should take you but a few minutes even if you take the long route!

  13. Charles Liu
    March 3rd, 2011 at 00:19 | #13

    Come on USTR, Baidu is a search engine, just like Google. Whatever pirate-ty things Baidu finds, Google finds more them.

    A test on how good “deep linking” works on Google, simply type in a URL frangment to a movie torrent – I gaurantee Google does a better job.

    Try this: type in “torrent black”, you’ll see Google suggesting “torrent black swan”. Does this mean Google is encouraging me to pirate the movie, or is it merely anticipating user inquery based on populartity?

    This kind of China bashing is logically insufficient.

  14. Charles Liu
    March 3rd, 2011 at 00:29 | #14

    I got an LOL from page 4 of the USTR report. It lists Lady’s Street night market in Hong Kong as place for fake stuff, but left out Canal Street in NYC or Santee Street in LA.

  15. SilentChinese
    March 4th, 2011 at 10:59 | #15

    Charles Liu :This kind of China bashing is logically insufficient.

    When has logic being got in the way of China bashers?
    In all seriousness bing and google and amazon wasn’t included because their Staffers reminded them that XX% of their contributions came from “do no evil”-ers and the nice people that works in the silicon valley, and that sock it to Baidu is prob good for some one’s share price

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