At this year's Virtual Earth and Location Summit, hosted by Microsoft Research in May, Steve Stanzel of the 3D Imagery Group gave a presentation about the new Virtual Earth released earlier this year. Virtual Earth version 2, in case you don't know, is a pretty impressive step forward in this mapping product. There are currently over 300 cities in 3D and many of them are already "V2" cities. In a V2 city, the texture qualities are greatly improved, making the buildings look more real. V2 cities all use what's called "oblique" imagery, aka "Bird's Eye View," that presents the imagery at a 45 degree angle, letting you clearly see the sides of the buildings. In V2 cities, you can also toggle street and building labels.
Another difference between V1 and V2 cities is the increase in the number of buildings displayed. In the earlier version of VE, only the taller buildings were rendered, but one and two-story structures were largely ignored. Now with V2, the number of buildings in a city has increased from about 6,000 to over 150,000, according to this Radar post blogged from the Summit. In addition to the buildings, trees have been rendered and placed in specific spots based on the height and diameter of the real trees. The trees are a nice touch, but its the sheer number of buildings that make a V2 city stand out - they have far more buildings that any competitive mapping product.
At the time of launch, four cities received the V2 face lift: Vegas, Denver, Dallas, and Phoenix, and today there are a total of seven (Vienna, Seattle, and Miami have now been added). However, by the end of this year, there will be hundreds of these cities online, says the team. Sounds like they are going to be busy!