Adding to its already impressive portfolio of mapping tools and capabilities, Microsoft has acquired 3-D modeling software company Caligari. The group will be a part of the Virtual Earth team, apparently, but the software is equally used for gaming and game development. Microsoft already had powerful 3-D modeling capabilities and assets from Vexcel, which it acquired in May 2006.
Google has also bulked up its 3-D capabilities, but Microsoft is farther along in rolling out 3-D cities and images on the Virtual Earth platform.
It’s not clear to me why the company wanted Caligari when it had automated 3-D rendering from Vexcel. It’s likely that the two sets of technologies will complement one another. Also in this 3-D mapping segment are Everyscape and UpNext.
These 3-D mapping capabilities point the way to “next-generation” local search products as well as offerings that can potentially transfer to other platforms like TV. There’s also a not-too-distant scenario where 3-D maps and “virtual worlds” collide.