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Microsoft Debuts MapCruncher

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Microsoft has joined the map mashup game by releasing MapCruncher, a downloadable map-publishing tool billed as an API for the non-programming masses. The Microsoft Research team says MapCruncher will do for mashups what Word did for documents.

From the Overview at Microsoft Research, where the program can be downloaded:

The Virtual Earth API allows web developers to supplement Virtual Earth’s maps with pushpins and lines. MapCruncher brings mashups to a whole new level by allowing developers to import entire maps to supplement the existing road and aerial imagery with detailed, application-specific information. The possibilities are endless: bicycle maps, transit maps, national park maps, university maps, antique city maps, or whatever scale maps you personally find interesting.

Microsoft calls it a “labor of love,” as the developers worked their own practical needs into the project. Jon Howell and Jeremy Elson are cyclists who needed to find a route across a busy freeway.

From Microsoft’s Press Pass:

“I’m an avid commuting cyclist,” Howell says, “and Jeremy also likes biking to work. He moved here a year and a half ago, and he asked, How can I get to work?’ ”

They took a look at a county cycling map and found a promising route. But at one point along the way, it appeared the route was interrupted by a freeway. The cycling map recommended the route, but how was a cyclist supposed to cross the freeway?

By registering the cycling map with aerial photography from Microsoft Research’s TerraServer database, the answer became obvious: Upon zooming in on the aerial view, they could clearly discern a pedestrian bridge crossing the freeway.

“In fact,” Elson says, “I use this route all the time now.”

MapCruncher accepts both drawing formats (PDF, WMF, EMF) and image formats (JPG, PNG, TIFF, GIF, BMP). The MapCruncher application requires Windows Server 2003 or Windows XP. It also requires the .Net 2.0 runtime, which it will install if necessary.

Check out the Demo Gallery here.

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Microsoft Debuts MapCruncher
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