Top That, Apple: Google Maps Gets Full 3D Images and Offline Access
Apple and Google are clawing each other's backs again. Apple recently re-ignited the ongoing war when unidentified Cupertino employees confirmed that the next-gen iOS 6 will kick Google Maps to the curb in order to replace the popular service with an Apple-branded solution.
Now, Google has used a small press event called "The Next Dimension of Maps" to shoot back, and the return salvo is 3D satellite-style views in Google Maps, complete with a lush look that's capable of zooming all over cities in 360 degree navigation. The assault doesn't stop there, either. Google demo'ed a feature users have requested for years: off-line access to Google Maps data, meaning no Wi-Fi, no data connection, no nothing.
True 3D Maps
Google Maps has supported 3D gray-scale maps with building outlines and simple street views for some time. 3D Maps takes that concept and layers in over-head images to add depth to the traditional 2D satellite view. With 3D Maps, users can tilt the view of the area to see buildings and streets from the side and as they actually appear.
The new 3D view works with a feature called Tour Guide that allows users to open a contextual menu and "soar" above cities, floating from one venue of interest to another. Google's presentation focused on a tour of San Francisco, swooping around AT&T Park baseball stadium in the city's South Beach neighborhood.
During the demo, Luc Vincent, Engineering Director of Google's Street View, explained that Google used airplanes flying in tightly controlled aerial patterns to collect the data, images and angles needed to give 3D View the necessary sense of depth and detail.
Google Maps Offline
The second big announcement is the ability to download cities within Google Maps. The demo showed off an Android smartphone in Airplane mode as it zoomed and panned through a locally stored copy of London's labrythine roadways. According to attendees, navigation rivaled a fully connected session with Google Maps in smoothness and speed.
Google representatives did not discuss when these new features will roll out to consumers, but Vincent mentioned that 3D Maps is expected to be available in 300 million Google Maps users' cities by the end of the year. Another rep mentioned that offline maps will be available "soon", and also added, that the feature would be available only to Android users.
3D Maps, on the other hand, is slated to roll out to iOS and Android devices, just not at a specific time. Surfing 3D neighborhood views on your iPhone could still be a challenge however. Apple will likely pull back the curtain on its own map software at next week's June 11 Worldwide Developer's Conference. At that point, we'll definitively know more about what's in store for Google Maps on your iOS device.
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