Google sure did announce a lot of new things yesterday, but it was slightly interesting to see the entire audience at the I/O Keynote yesterday enthusiastically cheering for one of the few things that weren’t entirely surprising: an update to Google Earth (now at version 7.0) that brings 3D mapping capabilities, as well as an update to Google Maps that brings the ability to download maps for offline use.
Google had already announced these features a few weeks ago at a Maps-centric event, but it’s always nice to see promised stuff actually becoming available for us, the end-users.
Starting with the 3D maps feature, Google uses a fleet of planes to take high resolution pictures of cityscapes at a 45 degree angle, pictures that are then processed into full 3D models of metropolitan areas. So far, only a few towns have been rendered in 3D: San Francisco Bay, Boulder, Boston, Charlotte, Lawrence, Los Angeles, Long Beach, Portland, San Antonio, San Diego, Santa Cruz and Tampa in the US, with Rome being the only international city that you can visit in 3D via your smartphone. If you’re interested in the privacy issues raised by the high-resolution pictures taken by Google via its planes, head on to this article here.
The offline map caching feature inside Google Maps might not be “complete” enough for some critics, given that turn by turn navigation and map searching are still unavailable without a data connection. But it sure is useful to see that your location is automatically updated in the map if you have GPS turned on. Maps for regions in more than 150 countries can be downloaded to be used offline.
Here’s an official video from Google showcasing the features brought by the most recent Google Earth update:
I’m willing to bet that those of you that own an iPhone won’t be surprised to learn that the Google Earth update is currently available for Android only (via Google Play). Once the thrill of surprise wears off, though, iFans will be glad to know that the new features will also become available for iOS soon enough.
Drop a comment in the section below and let us know what you think of the new updates for Google Earth and Google Maps.