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Summary:

Google Maps now has a series of “labs” features, allowing users to enable or disable enhancements such as aerial imagery (in certain locations only), as well as drag-and-zoom, smart zoom, location-based features, a satellite-imagery guessing game and other new options.

Now Gmail isn’t the only Google offering with a “labs” section that offers experimental features: A reader tipped Google Blogoscoped off to the addition of the lab’s green flask icon to Google Maps, which has been given some cool new features as well. Among them are a new “aerial imagery” setting that has been added to the existing map, with terrain and satellite buttons at the top of the map view. While similar to satellite view, it gives viewers a different angle to look at, rather than the typical straight-down view that satellite imagery provides. Google says aerial images (which appear to have been taken by a plane) are only available for certain locations though, including — of course — the Googleplex itself, which appears in the photo at the top of this post.

The other features that have been added include:

  • Drag ’n’ Zoom — Lets you click and drag the cursor to create a square around any point, and then zoom to that point
  • What’s Around Here? — Adds a second search button that looks for key sights and features around a specific location
  • LatLng Tooltip — Displays a tooltip next to the mouse cursor that shows the latitude/ longitude of that spot
  • Where In The World Game — Lets you test your knowledge of world geography by guessing the name of the country from satellite imagery
  • Rotatable Maps — Lets you drag and rotate the compass to see the map from any direction
  • Smart Zoom — Stops the map from zooming in to a detail level where no imagery exists, and prevents the message “We don’t have imagery at this zoom level.”

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  1. Bing/Live Maps has had the aerial imagery thing for a while, and it’s indispensable. Sometimes a flat over head shot just doesn’t give you an idea of what you’re looking at.

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    1. Yep, that’s the only thing about Bing Maps that I liked better than Google (though Street View was always more practical anyway). Once the data fills in I’ll have zero reasons to visit Bing Maps over Google Maps. Very smart of Google.

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      1. The problem with street view is that all the imagery is grainy and full of blurs, and they don’t seem to have used a glare shield on any of them.

        Bing is taking longer to get its imagery, but I’m liking the look of Bing’s imagery and the use of Photosynth stuff. Google’s might be more practical for navigation because they get the images more quickly and it’s more complete, but it’s no good when I just want to look around a place.

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  2. [...] GigaOM This entry was posted in GIS and tagged birdseye, Google, google labs, Google Maps, google maps [...]

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  3. [...] GigaOM Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)The Legend of Google MapsGoogle I/O NewsGoogle [...]

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  4. how the heck do you play “Where in the world game?” I’ve spent 30 mins trying to figure out what enabling this lab actually does!!!!!

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