A small (but nice) enhancement to Google Maps

When using Google Maps for driving directions, there is now an option to “Avoid Tolls”.  As the LatLong blog said:

When half your wallet is already going toward gas, it’s nice if you can save some money for ice cream instead of dumping it all off at the toll booth.

I agree.  It’s a nice little touch.

More updates to Virtual Earth

Microsoft has just released a new version of Live Search Maps (named Gemini), as well as revealed a few more places that were updated in the past few days.

The new version has a lot of cool stuff:

  • 1-Click Directions – Also known as “party maps”, this is a single permalink that you can send out, and each person can get directions to it from their house with a single click.
  • Route Around Traffic – It’s a check box option to have it automatically route around traffic jams, based on the live traffic data.
  • Data Import – Import GeoRSS, GPX and even some KML.
  • Birds Eye View in 3D – A way to view Birds Eye imagery while in 3D mode.  It’s kinda weird, but very cool.
  • 3D Tours and Videos of Collections – You can build a “tour” (fly around, look at stuff, etc), then share it with others by sending them a simple URL.  They can control the tour using DVD-style controls.
  • 3D Modelling – Using Dassault, you can create 3D buildings in VE.
  • Collection Search and Explore – A search engine for more content.
  • Enhanced Detail Pages – More info about each business listed in VE

You really need to read their full post to get details about all of those enhancements.

Also, there was more to their latest imagery update than we posted a few days ago.  In addition to all of that Birds Eye data, the following was also added:

Birds Eye Imagery

  • Madrid, Spain
  • Stockholm, Sweden
  • Dopenhagen, Denmark

Ortho Imagery

  • Imperial County, CA
  • Fresno, CA
  • Cincinnati, OH
  • North Kentucky
  • Kern County, CA
  • Louisville, KY
  • Merced, CA
  • Blythe, CA
  • Lexington, KY
  • Willow Springs, AZ
  • Wilmington, NC
  • Placer County, CA
  • St. George, UT
  • Ft. Pierce/Stuart, FL
  • Northeast Ohio
  • Pensacola, FL
  • Catalina Island, CA
  • Ft. Myers, FL
  • Panama/Tallahassee, FL
  • Florida Keys, FL
  • Gainesville/Ocala, FL
  • US 19, WV

Satellite Imagery

  • Banff, Canada
  • Everglades, FL, United States
  • Freeport, Bahamas
  • Grand Teton/Yellowstone, CA, United States
  • Pusan, South Korea
  • Malta
  • Marsh Harbor, Bahamas
  • North Bimini, Bahamas
  • Whistler, Canada
  • Helsinki, Finland

All in all, it amounts to an astounding amount of new stuff for VE.  Very impressive!

Google Maps – Click and Drag Directions

This is really cool. Once you’ve created directions in Google Maps (via a new click interface), you can drag various parts of your route. Check out the video below for a brief demonstration:

More details can be found at the Google LatLong blog.

The state of Google Maps

It’s been quite a week for Google Maps.  Where 2.0 and the Google Developer Day last week brought a flurry of new announcements.   I’ll run through them all for you:

Driving directions for the API

You can now use driving directions on your API maps.  Not only can you do full directions, but you can capture each step and output it any way that you want, or you can include waypoints in there.  It’s quite powerful.

Google Mapplets

As Google puts it, it allows you to create a “mashup of mashups”.  Right now it’s kind of tucked away on their site, but you can find it here.  I liken it very much to the layers feature of Google Earth.  You can take seemingly unrelated content and layer it on top of one another to create a more useful map.  At the Developer Day they showed examples of real estate info, mixed with schools, mixed with crime data, mixed with local transit.  Having the other data available made the real estate info more useful.

As this feature gains popularity it will also become much more useful.

Street View

You’ve undoubtedly heard about this already.   Google just released “Street Views” for Google Maps.  It’s quite slick, allowing you to see tons of street-level imagery, but it’s so far only available in five cities (San Francisco, New York City, Las Vegas, Denver and Miami).  Mike Pegg at Google Maps Mania has a nice write-up about it.

AdSense Integration

Google announced this at Developer Day, but it’s still about a month away.  With just a couple extra lines of JavaScript, Maps mash-ups will be able to contain AdSense placemarks.  They’ll show up on the map automatically (such as the location of nearby hotels) and the developer will get paid if a user clicks through for more info — just like a normal AdSense ad.  The integration looks quite slick, so it’ll be interesting to see how this works once it’s released.

KML support

Google has been ramping up their support for KML files in maps, and that’ll be increasing a few weeks.  Right now, the maps will blow up if you give it more than a few hundred placemarks in a KML.  However, within “a couple weeks” you’ll be able to load massive numbers of files and Google will deal with it.  They’ll show the “most relevant” items when zoomed out, then include more and more as users zoom in.  It’s similar to how most mash-ups work now, but it’ll make the development of those mash-ups much easier, assuming the relevancy is worked out well.

There’s much to be excited about with Google Maps.  If I missed anything, please let me know.