With each new improvement of the design of their maps, it’s becoming clearer that Google Maps doesn’t want their maps to look like maps so much as they want them to look like the real world. The announcement for today’s update only furthers the service into that direction. Before too long, the imagery of buildings in Google Maps will not look identical to how they look in real life only because Google Maps chooses not to make the buildings look that way.
Google Maps announced via the Lat Long Blog that its enhanced the quality of thousands of 3D landmarks around the world so as to “make it easier to compare the digital map to the physical landscape. One example they provided to illustrate the difference was a before and after of Piazza del Duomo in Florence, Italy. It’s not that the previous imagery of the Piazza was shabby – it was a pretty sharp 3D model, in fact – but the new one makes it look awkwardly dull.
Here it before:
And then in the after:
Below, you can see a similar improvement to the West Building of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. Like the Piazza above, you can actually see the texture of the dome in the center of the building as well see a greater definition in the slants of the roof.
Google Maps provided this example of the world’s tallest building, Burj Khalifa, located in downtown Dubai, that really shows off the chops of this update.
The detail is getting so good in these renderings that one wonders if in the future it’ll actually be preferable to look at these places via Google Maps because looking at them with the naked human eye just doesn’t deliver like it used to.