Virtual Earth / Live Maps being rebranded to Bing

As you’ve likely heard, Microsoft has unveiled it’s new Bing search engine.  As part of that rebranding process, other Microsoft applications are getting renamed.  Of particular interest to us are the new names for their mapping products.

Live Search Maps will now be simply called “Bing Maps”, and the Virtual Earth platform will now be known as “Bing Maps for Enterprise”.  Much more about this can be found on Chris Pendleton’s blog or by watching the video below.

Huge imagery release for Virtual Earth

Microsoft has rolled out another enormous imagery release for Virtual Earth.  Details can be found here, but the quick version includes:

Orthos

 

  • Spain
  • Japan
Obliques (Bird’s Eye)
  • United States
  • Japan
  • Australia
  • Canada
  • United Kingdom
  • Germany
  • Austria
  • Luxembourg
Sadly, once again, there doesn’t appear to be any new 3D buildings.  C’mon Microsoft — those “version 2″ cities are amazing and we want more of them!

Virtual Earth update time

Just a few days ago I mentioned that I hadn’t seen an imagery update for Virtual Earth in a while, and now we have one.

This one reportedly has a staggering 48TB worth of imagery, but doesn’t cover that many places.  The list:

Orthos

  • Yakima, WA
  • Springfield, MO
  • Spokane, WA
  • Portland, ME
  • Grand Rapids, MI
  • Billings, MT
  • Minneapolis, MN (UltraCam Refresh)
  • Seattle, WA (UltraCam Refresh)
  • Las Vegas, NV (UltraCam Refresh)
  • Phoenix, AZ (UltraCam Refresh)
  • Tampa, Fl (UltraCam Refresh)

Vector

  • Vector overlays for Navteq and MDS data sources for orthos and Bird’s Eye
  • All mobile tiles
  • New British Isles Map style

3D

  • Tampa, FL
Only one new 3D city?  Bummer.  I’m dying to see the country (and world) get populated with those awesome “version 2″ cities, but they really seem to be slowing down.  Hopefully they can pick up the pace and get more areas fleshed out in the near future.

The July update for Virtual Earth is out

It’s not nearly as large as some recent Virtual Earth updates, but there’s still quite a bit packed into this one.  No new 3D cities that I know of, but a bunch of new imagery.  New orthos in a handful of places in the US, all of Austria, and various cities in Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.  In addition, there is new satellite and Bird’s Eye imagery for a variety of locations.

You can see the full list of updated areas here.

Various improvements to Live Maps overseas

A handful of new features have just been rolled out for the international versions of Live Maps.

Live Search Maps China has just had a handful of additions and improvements, including:

  • Real-time Traffic in Beijing
  • Send-to-Mobile for free for local search and transit routing result
  • Transit data refresh for existing 11 cities including 3 new subway in Beijing (No.10, Airport and Olympic).
  • Expanded coverage from 11 to 31 cities.
  • Geocoding and Local Search
  • Data refresh for existing 114 cities including Olympic Venues.
  • Support city and county name geocoding for areas outside of 114-city coverage.
  • Olympic query relevance improvement
  • Local search category refinement
  • Map refresh for 10 existing major cities including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou etc.
  • Expanded tile coverage for 30 more cities, totally 289 cities now.

Also, Live Search Maps Australia has been released, with data from a variety of sources.  This page has more info about that release.

Virtual Earth Imagery Update

Microsoft has apparently just added 22TB worth of new imagery to Virtual Earth. The only nice tidbit we know so far is that Australia finally has some Birds Eye imagery.

Assuming this is accurate, I expect a detailed announcement from Microsoft shortly.

Trees and Highway Overpasses

I’ve long felt that two things would need to happen to get to the next level in 3D imagery — trees and highway overpasses.

Since one of the neat features in Google Earth is the ability to fly a route, having proper overpasses would make things look much better.  The latest version of Virtual Earth has some cities modeled in “version 2.0″, which include a number of advances.  To the right is a bridge over a river.  While the bottom is still solid (you can’t see the river under the bridge) and the edges are rough, it’s really coming along nicely.  The tighter mesh of elevation data is getting us closer to where I’d like to see it.  I would think we’ll see some real progress in this area within the next year or so.

The bigger problem is the lack of trees.  Amazingly, Microsoft has begun to fix that already, too!  I really felt that was still well off in the future, but I’m glad I was wrong.  It only works in their “version 2.0″ cities (Las Vegas, Dallas, Denver and Phoenix), but it’s really neat.  As Google Earth Blog had speculated, the trees are generated automatically by Microsoft.  Hand-placing thousands of trees would be an impossible task to keep up with.

In addition, the trees don’t affect load time very much.  They only have to load a given tree type once, then tweak the height and diameter for each placement of it.  As such, I’ve found the trees load very quickly — usually before most of the buildings.

I’m a bit concerned about performance, though.  The tree models look excellent, and with thousands of them scattered around a city, I have to think that it’ll make things move a little slower.  I’m currently out of town on an old laptop, so everything is slow right now.  When I get home to my primary PC I’ll really start putting it through it’s paces.

Microsoft says that the updated data will roll out to the current set of 250 3D cities “soon” and I’m really looking forward to it.

Yahoo updates imagery for most of the United States

Not to be outdone by Google and Microsoft, Yahoo has updated their imagery for most of the United States.  While it’s still simply 2D maps, they’ve updated a ton of imagery.

Since it’s inception, Yahoo has added over 500 cities across the world, but today has seen the biggest change ever in their US data.

According to the Yahoo Local & Maps Blog, they’ve gone both wide and deep:

Going wide, we’ve made big improvements in our wall-to-wall coverage of the United States, improving our back-drop data for a number of complete states, including California, Oregon, New York, the Carolina’s, and numerous other states in the west and midwest.  State-wide, you’ll see an improvement in freshness, color and clarity.

Going deep, and I think more importantly, we’ve enabled up to 2 extra zoom levels of aerial photography and satellite imagery for the Satellite button for hundreds of cities around the US.  Not only can you see more detail, but in many places the imagery has gotten a welcomed refresh as well.

It pales in comparison to the new features that Microsoft has rolled out, but it’s nice to see them continue to press on.

Tons of new features in Virtual Earth

To go with the new ClearFlow traffic, Microsoft has just released a slew of new features for Virtual Earth.  They include:

  • Export collections to GPS using KML, GPX and GeoRSS.
  • Improved 3D cities.  Las Vegas, Dallas, Denver and Phoenix are now in “version 2″, which includes higher-res textures, more buildings and even rendered tress.  Other cities will be added/updated as time goes on.
  • Better 3D modeling using 3DVIA.  Microsoft’s answer to SketchUp, 3DVIA, has seen a handful of improvements.
  • Labels for Birds Eye imagery.
  • MapCruncher Integration.  MapCruncher allows you to do overlays in a similar manner to Google Earth.  It’s more complex than needed for simple overlays, but it’s very powerful for large or uneven overlays.  With this release you can add your MapCrunched layers to your Collections, then share them.
  • Capture hi-def movies of your tours, up to 1920×1080.
  • Improved KML display.

For more, check out the full post on the Virtual Earth / Live Maps blog, or read Frank’s write-up on the Google Earth Blog.

Microsoft launches “ClearFlow” traffic on Live Maps

Microsoft has just released “ClearFlow” traffic data on Live Maps, but it’s far more interesting than you might think.  While it shows the colored traffic speeds in a similar manner as Yahoo, Google and Mapquest, it also goes much deeper.

From Search Engine Land:

In addition to real-time traffic data, the service offers traffic predictions across highways and improved information on secondary routes and surface streets. Horvitz said that this predictive modeling has proven to be very accurate in Microsoft’s ongoing development and refinement of the program. Based on artificial intelligence, as well as dynamic traffic monitoring, ClearFlow appears to be quite a bit more sophisticated that competing systems.

This could easily become the best traffic data on your PC.  Of course, therein lies the problem — it’s chained to my PC.  It’s very useful to get traffic data when I’m at my desk, but it’s brilliant to be able to get it while I’m on the road.

Here’s what needs happen next:

  • Microsoft releases a version of Live Maps Mobile, with similar features to Google Maps Mobile.
  • One of them steps up and includes turn-by-turn GPS into their mobile software.  GMM is so close to being the killer mobile app.  I can get turn-by-turn directions.  It can see/follow my GPS.  It just won’t tell me how far until my next turn!  I have very high hopes for the next version of GMM, but it’s been very quiet on that front lately.  A push from Microsoft would be a great thing for us consumers.