Bing Maps Goes Silverlight: Now with Streetside Immersion, Enhanced Bird's Eye View, Photosynth, and More

Andres Ferrate
Dec. 02 2009, 05:41PM EST

Microsoft has just released a new Silverlight version of Bing Maps that is full of new features and upgrades. Although it's hard to say whether this release of Bing Maps has "stolen the cool crown" from Google, the new features do provide some additional value for users. The "beta" release is not yet available by default, though you can preview the latest version at: http://www.bing.com/maps/explore.

bing-maps-streetside

Aside from several enhancements to the UI, which is much richer based on the capabilities of Silverlight, perhaps one of the most valuable additions is the new "Streetside" feature, which provides street level panoramic immersion and navigation (similar to Google's StreetView). Streetside is currently available in 56 metro areas, although we can expect additional coverage in the future.

bing-maps-birdseye

The latest version also includes what Microsoft describes as "Enhanced Bird's Eye" imagery, which cleverly renders some buildings in urban areas with a 3D aspect ratio. In areas where 3D models and oblique aerial photographs are not available, aerial images are reprojected to provide an oblique perspective (below).

bing-maps-birdseye-reproject

Photosynth is also natively integrated with Bing Maps, and so those photosynth images that have been geotagged are available for display on the maps as well.

bing-maps-photosynth

In addition to these new features, Microsoft has released a new application gallery that includes several apps that can be toggled on to display additional data and features. These are not mashups per se, and the gallery currently is limited to apps developed by Microsoft (no word yet on whether independently developed apps will be integrated as well).

bing-maps-apps

One of the new apps is the Twitter app, which utilizes the recently released Twitter geolocation API to display tweets on a map.

bing-maps-twitter

There are several other minor upgrades and features available, including a new Defined Regions Query that automatically displays named neighborhoods. Chris Pendleton has a lengthy recap on the Bing Maps Blog.

Critics may point out that the new UI relies on Silverlight, which is not necessarily ubiquitous, so that may present a barrier for adoption. Regardless of whether you're a fan of Bing Maps, Google Maps, or any other web mapping platform, it's good to see that Microsoft is continuing to improve its platform. In the end, the more diverse the offerings out there, the more that consumers (and developers) win. While it's not certain if or when much of the new functionality and features will be programmatically accessible, we're hoping that the Bing Maps API will be expanded to include some, if not all, of them in the near future.

Andres Ferrate

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[...] Maps and Bing Maps just got a lot more interesting. It&#8217;s been less than a week since we covered the release of a variety of new features for Bing Maps, including the addition of new StreetSide panoramic imagery similar to that used in Google Maps [...]

[...] Instead of &#8220;street view&#8221;, Bing Maps has a feature called &#8220;bird&#8217;s eye&#8221; which allows you to view a satellite image at an angle &#8212; giving you more of a 3D image rather than just a rooftop. (Coincidentally, Google is working a similar feature into Google Maps as we speak, and Bing Maps is looking to add a feature much like Google&#8217;s street view.) [...]