software: where’s my ARchitect identifier?

One of the oft-touted promises of Google Glass and other Augmented Reality headsets is you’ll look at something and the headset will indicate or say what it is.

Meanwhile in the real world, a friend posts great cityscape photographs and I always wonder what the handsome skyscrapers are. Google sucks at identifying the buildings in the shot!

photo of the tops of New York skyscrapers seen through vegetation
A hill with a view ©2022 James Forrester

But I knew one of the buildings is the iconic Art Deco spire of the Chrysler building, which gives me the rough location. Surely 13 years after Google Earth started mapping 3D buildings all over the world, there’s an easy way to fly around the area on a computer looking for nearby skyscrapers! I searched for how to turn on 3D view in Google Maps (on desktop, click Layers > more > globe). As always, moving around in 3D using a keyboard and mouse is an exercise in frustration, but I eventually dragged the cursor to about the right location, still much too high off the ground. Here’s a link, although it doesn’t actually load up 3D view. The buildings look like this in Google Maps’ 3D view:

New York skyscrapers rendered by Google Maps' globe (3D) view
more or mostly less the same viewpoint in Google Maps’ globe (3D) mode

It looks terrible, but it’s good enough that I can make out the buildings from the photo. So now surely all I have to do is just click on each one? Nope, every time I click Google Maps drops its marker on some random business behind the building. It doesn’t seem to know that the pixel I’m clicking on is part of a tall building, even though it rendered the building seconds earlier.

After bouncing between 3D view and regular Google Maps satellite view and searching for “Xyz building architect”, I’m fairly confident that neither bronze monolith is the immortal Seagram building by Mies van der Rohe. I think the buildings are Trump World Tower 🤮 (Costas Kondylis), Chrysler building (William Van Allen), 100 United Nations Plaza (Der Scutt), One Dag Hammarskjöld Plaza (Emery Roth), and behind that One Vanderbilt (Kohn Pederson Fox).

That was way too hard. The obvious solution is to wear an AR headset 👓 and squeeze your earlobe👂 to take an annotated picture 📸.

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