The Bing Maps Blog has announced a series of new updates, most notably the great feature that now offers maps of almost 900 indoor venues. Covering all sorts of facilities from malls to museums, casinos to football stadiums, the maps offer up what you'd expect: a floor plan designed to let you see around corners and help you find your way inside one of the world's mammoth edifices.
To access one of the venue maps (if it is offered for your building of interest), you'll be presented with an option to open up the venue map of the building once you've zoomed in far enough. Of course, if it's an outdoor venue, you'll just see the venue map as you get closer to it, as you can see below with the map of the Magic Kingdom near Orlando, Florida.
In addition to what you may consider as some of the more tourist-heavy attractions in cities, Bing also announced that the maps will now suggest some of the more prominent local businesses as you zoom into neighborhoods. If you're familiar to a city but not quite a local yet, this could be a great feature for discovering some new favorite haunts around a city.
One feature I noticed that may be helpful for tourists and the like is kind of hidden in the section of Shopping Districts that are included in the venue maps. Essentially, there are store-by-store maps of neighborhoods that looks to lead ambitious shoppers around the area in order to find the boutique of their desire. Even if you're not really a gold medal shop-till-you-drop consumer, you may find this may helpful if you're looking for a place to grab a quick bite to eat.
You'll see a pretty good example of this below in the sample from the Fashion District in New York City.
Finally, Bing Maps announced that its added transparent 3D imagery to many of the maps so users will get more of an angular view to the city, which should help you recognize and identify destinations a little bit easier. Below is an example of New York City's downtown areas, as provided from the Bing Maps Blog post.
As of right now, all of these updates are only available for limited markets. As of right now, all of these updates are only available for limited markets. Additionally, the venue maps are currently available on the Bing for Mobile iPhone App, Windows Phone Map App, and m.bing.com on HTML5-enabled smartphones, including iPhone, RIM, and Android devices.
Bing's been offering up maps of venues since 2010, which was ahead of Google's launch of a similar service at the end of last year. With these two sites often competing for search traffic by offering up similar services, it's something hard to really improve on the map; it's not quite like making a rounder wheel, but geography generally stays undisturbed and doesn't need to be updated all that often. Still, Bing has managed to find a way to either keep up or stay ahead of Google in certain aspects, the venue maps example being one of them.
At any rate, the addition of the venue floor plans to Bing Maps is a necessary if not clever update. There are untold amounts of large venues (malls, airports, museums, arenas, etc.) in the world and Google Maps can't possibly get to all of them first, so Bing's right to pursue this feature.
This article has been updated from the original version. Google was incorrectly credited with offering the venue maps services first when it was actually Bing that offered it first in 2010.