Today at its "Next Dimension" presentation, Google Maps introduced a new feature it says will be hitting Android and iOS devices in the near weeks: a fully explorable 3D version of Google Earth, as well one highly valuable feature that appears to be specific to Android.
As is the wont of companies who host these types of conferences, there was a bit of self-aggrandizing during the conference before the presenters got to the meat everybody saved their appetites for. For instance, the Google Maps crew extolled some of the great services it's rolled out over the years, like Street View, mobile maps, and the recent indoor maps. Brian McClendon, Vice President of Google Maps, pointed out that from 2006 to 2012, the percentage of the world that is now viewable in high-resolution imagery has grown from 37% to 75%, meaning you can more than likely get a pretty clear detailed view of the street you grew up on or of your high school alma mater.
Google spent some time covering the history of its Street View service, which is timely considering how much bad press that objectively helpful search tool has been for millions of users over the years. The little Street View cars that could has put 5,000,000 unique miles on the odometer since Google started collecting imagery for the ground-level imagery. That number is rather dumbfounding, really. It's only (only!) 238,900 miles to the moon, meaning the Street Car could've driven round trips there about 10 times. Or, if you're more terrestrially minded, that's 200 times the circumference of Earth. Expect Google Street View to start tallying up the walking miles soon, though, as the Street View trike-equipped backpack was introduced to the audience.
As mentioned, the high-res 3D imagery was the belle of the Google Maps ball today. The new feature was described as emulating the experience of "flying over the city," more so than the current imagery can inspire. Where Google Earth had fully rotatable views of 3D models, this new version actually uses photography to create those models.
Did you notice something peculiar about that presentation still? Mmhmm, your eyes aren't deceiving you: when demonstrating the performance of the Google Maps' new 3D imagery, Google Earth Product Manager Peter Birch honestly used an iPad for the presentation.
Oh, and if you're curious about how Google Maps gathered the imagery that was used to create the new 3D view, Birch revealed that Google actually owns planes that are equipped with "custom, Google-designed camera systems." No kidding. Google planes (or will that future service be called Google Air?).
Perhaps as equal import to regular users of Google Maps was the announcement that the service will soon have offline access. Google Maps for Mobile Product Manager Rita Chen said the feature will be coming soon to Google Maps for Android, but no mention of whether it'll be available to iOS products (for what it's worth, Chen made her presentation from a Motorola tablet). In the Q&A at the end of the presentation, McClendon said that Google Maps is working hard to bring the offline map feature to iOS, but awkwardly concluded, "it's just a question of when that'll happen." Half-past not likely, perhaps?
The full presentation can be found on YouTube but the video is currently unlisted so only those with the link will be able to watch it. Luckily, we here at WebProNews have the technology to show you the way: watch it here (skip ahead to about the 30-minute mark because there's literally nothing happening until then).
Update: Google changed the sharing options for the video since yesterday. See the full presentation below.