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.

A ton of new imagery for Virtual Earth, and a few more updated cities

To go with the new “version 2″ 3D data for Miami, Microsoft has updated Vienna and Seattle.  In addition to that, they’ve added a ton of new imagery.

I normally like to list all of the updated areas, but it’s simply too much.  You can view it all on this page.

The total amount of new imagery is reported to be around 69.2TB, which is amazing!  However, I don’t know how that number is computed.  Is that raw imagery?  Compressed?  Anyone know how that figure is derived?

In any case, it looks to be another awesome update.

Miami is now “version 2″ in Virtual Earth

About two months after the first four “version 2″ cities were released, Microsoft has just unveiled Miami 2.0.  Like the other four cities, it features a massive increase in the number of buildings, along with a whole bunch of 3D trees.  According to the Virtual Earth 3D blog, Miami now has 46,344 3D buildings (up from about 4,000) along with “hundreds of thousands” of trees.

To be honest, I’m a bit disappointed with the pace of these new cities.  They’ve bragged a few times that these cities are generated through a “100% automated process”, so I expected a few new cities per month.  To only have one new city after two months is a bit of a letdown.  That being said, Miami looks awesome and I can’t wait to see more!

OS independent 3D map of Stockholm released, a Swedish search and mapping site, has just released a 3D map of Stockholm that works in virtually any browser in any operating system.

The technology is powered in part by C3 Technologies, who explain their software as follows:

The technology is based on high-resolution aerial photography with carefully calibrated cameras. For every picture, the camera’s position and angle are calculated with extremely high precision, using a very advanced navigation system. This is what enables us to give each pixel its geographical position with decimetre accuracy. Then, using stereovision technology, we combine two sequential pictures to measure the area’s height profile.

The result is an aerial photograph with each pixel positioned in three dimensions. Over an entire city, thousands of such photos are combined into one coherent 3D model – through an automated process in our unique 3D-processor.

Thanks to all this, there is no one today who can take pictures with the same precision and speed as we can. One example is when we filmed all of Stockholm in October 2007 and created a realistic, yet zoomable and turnable, 3D model of the city in just 3 days.

It seems to be a pretty cool technology, considering cities can be created so quickly and it works on such a wide variety of platforms.  The detail is far worse than what Google Earth and Virtual Earth have, though it renders trees and “any object larger than a VW bus”.

Ogle Earth has a post that gets into a bit more detail and is well worth reading.

More details about yesterday’s Virtual Earth update

We mentioned it yesterday, but now we have details of the imagery update in Virtual Earth, thanks VE: An Evangelist’s Blog.

I had hoped to see more of their awesome “version 2.0″ 3D cities added, but no new ones were added this time.  Still, it’s a very impressive update!

Here’s part of the list:

Microsoft Ultracam Orthos

  • Pueblo, CO
  • Wilmington, DE
  • St. Joseph, MO
  • Graceland, TN
  • Memphis, TN
  • Mesquite, TX
  • Burlington, VT
  • Yokohama, JPN
  • Kawasaki, JPN
  • Setagaya, JPN

Obliques (Bird’s Eye) – US

  • Areas NW of Birmingham, AL
  • Pickens County, AL
  • Charlotte County, FL
  • Boulder, CO
  • Pueblo, CO
  • Pasco County, FL
  • Fulton County, GA
  • Black Hawk County, IA
  • Johnson County, IA
  • Woodbury County, IA
  • Douglas County, KS
  • Olmstead County, MN
  • Suburban St. Louis, MO
  • Hinds County, MS
  • Mississippi Metro
  • Smith County, MS
  • Tallahatchie County, MS
  • Tate County, MS
  • Tunica County, MS
  • Yalobusha County, MS
  • Yellowstone County, MT
  • Pitt County, NC
  • Merrimack County, NH
  • Lancaster Metro, PA
  • Lawrence County, PA
  • Minnehaha County, SD
  • Pennington County, SD
  • Eau Claire, WI

Obliques (Bird’s Eye) – Australia

  • Gold Coast, Australia
  • Sydney, Australia
  • Hobart, Australia
  • Wollongong, Australia

Obliques (Bird’s Eye) – Europe

  • Aberdeen, UK
  • Edinburgh, UK
  • Dunfermline, UK
  • Cumbernauld, UK
  • Falkirk, UK
  • East Kilbride, UK
  • Dundee, UK
  • Crawley, UK
  • Glasgow, UK
  • Liverpool, UK
  • Las Palmas, Spain
  • Telde, Spain
  • Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Spain
  • Den Helder, Netherlands
  • Ruhrgebiet Region, Germany
  • London, UK (updated)
  • Ruhrgebiet Region, Germany
  • Berlin, Germany
  • Agrinion, Greece
  • Chalkida, Greece
  • Chania, Greece
  • Drama, Greece
  • Ioannina, Greece
  • Kalamata, Greece
  • Iraklion, Greece
  • Katerini, Greece
  • Kavala, Greece
  • Lamia, Greece
  • Larnia, Greece
  • Serres, Greece
  • Trikala, Greece
  • Patra, Greece
  • Volos, Greece

Orthos – US (0.5m)

  • Albuquerque, NM
  • Santa Fe, NM
  • Augusta, GA
  • Charlotte, NC
  • Columbia, SC
  • El Paso, TX
  • Florida Southwest Coast, FL
  • Ocala-Gainesville, FL
  • Gulfport, MS
  • Knoxville, TN
  • Myrtle Beach, SC
  • Nashville, TN
  • Oklahoma City, OK
  • Panama City, FL
  • Pensacola, FL
  • San Francisco, CA
  • St. Cloud, MN
  • Tampa Bay, FL

Satellite – Worldwide

  • Baker Island, USA
  • The Alhambra in Grenada, Spain
  • Ahmadabad, India
  • Pune, India
  • Bhopal, India
  • Timbuktu, Mali
  • Bhudaneswar, India
  • Indore, India
  • Patna, India
  • Nagpur, India
  • Bangalore, India
  • Calcutta, India
  • New Delhi, India
  • Bombay, India
  • Hyderabad, India
  • Jaipur, India
  • Kanpur, India
  • Madras, India

StreetView coming to Italy

Google StreetView cars have been spotted in Italy, indicating that StreetView data will be coming soon.

The interesting part is that these don’t seem to be normal StreetView cars.  These come equipped with a handful of SICK laser scanners.  What for?  Educating Silicon does a good job of breaking down the question.  From their post:

So, what is Google doing with 3D laser data? The obvious application is 3D reconstruction for Google Earth. Their current efforts to do this involve user-generated 3D models from Sketchup. They have quite a lot of contributed models, but there is only so far you can get with an approach like that. With an automated solution, they could go for blanket 3D coverage. For an idea of what the final output might look like, have a look at the work of Frueh and Zakhor at Berkeley. They combined aerial and ground based laser with photo data to create full 3D city models. In am not sure Google will go to quite this length, but it certainly looks like they’re made a start on collecting the street-level data. Valleywag claims Google are hiring 300 drivers for their European data gathering efforts, so they will soon be swimming in laser data.

Maybe this is how Google will start mass-generating buildings for Google Earth to catch back up to Microsoft’s stockpile in Virtual Earth.

KML is now an international standard

As reported by the Google LatLong Blog, KML has now officially become an OGC (Open Geospatial Consortium) standard.

According to Google, there are tens of millions of KML documents available online, hosted on over 100,000 unique domain names.  The number of files isn’t a huge surprise, but 100,000 unique domains seem like a ton!

As part of this, Google has transferred ownership of the standard to the OGC.  To quote Google:

This transfer of ownership is a strong reflection of Google’s commitment to open standards. Fundamentally, our interest is not to control information, but rather to encourage its spread.

Microsoft started adding support for KML last October, so getting KML accepted as a standard is another step toward making it the ubiquitous mapping standard on the web.

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.