Google Maps Gets Aerial Perspective Imagery

Andres Ferrate
Dec. 08 2009, 03:09PM EST

The geo mapping platform ecosystem has grown a little more as the competition between Google Maps and Bing Maps just got a lot more interesting. It'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 StreetView. At the time, it seems that Bing Maps was making a move to "catch up" with Google Maps in terms of immersive street-level panoramic photos. And now Google has countered back with the release of "aerial perspective imagery" similar to the Bird's Eye View imagery used in Google Maps.

[caption id="attachment_9715" align="aligncenter" width="362" caption="Google Maps Aerial Perspective Imagery"]Google Maps Aerial Perspective Imagery[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_9716" align="aligncenter" width="362" caption="Bing Maps Bird\'s Eye View"]Bing Maps Bird's Eye View[/caption]

Google has announced that V2 of the Google Maps API now includes perspective imagery for San Diego and San Jose, California. The imagery is available with or without road overlays, and it can be enabled by adding a single line of code: map.enableRotation(). According to the Google Geo Developers Blog:

The aerial and satellite imagery are linked to each other, and the hybrid aerial and hybrid satellite imagery are linked to each other as well. This means that a single call to GMap2.enableRotation() will tell your map to automatically switch from satellite imagery to rotatable aerial imagery wherever it is available. The GLargeMapControl3D will also display a compass ring that users can rotate to see the imagery from different directions.

Several services that utilize Google Maps now include the new perspective imagery, including Orbitz, Trulia, and Redfin. As you can see in the screen shots below, the new imagery adds a nice new dimension to the geo data presented by these services.

Trulia

Orbitz

You can learn more about the new aerial perspective imagery by checking out the primer and reference documentation. Additional imagery for other cities will be added in the near future and it's likely that we'll see the imagery appear in the main Google Maps app soon as well (likely when more cities are covered). One interesting difference between the Google and Bing maps imagery is the zoom levels that are supported. Based on some cursory testing, it appears that Google supports additional additional zoom out and zoom in levels compared to the Bird's Eye imagery in Bing Maps.

Although it's hard to tell whether this move by Google puts the "dagger into Bing Maps," the recent moves by both companies certainly show that they are aggressively expanding their mapping platforms, and subsequently targeting increased adoption by end users and developers alike. As James Fee points out:

What I’m interested in seeing [is] which company can build out their “new service” first. Google with their oblique aerial view, or Microsoft with their street level view.

This may not be an apples to apples comparison just yet, as Google has moved to provide access to its new data through the API. While Microsoft has integrated its new data with its consumer-facing platform, but it has not yet provided access to this new data through the Bings Maps API. However, the competition is getting quite interesting and we'll certainly be keeping an eye out to see how these two companies up the ante with their respective mapping platforms.

Andres Ferrate

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