Google and Microsoft Adding Street Level Views to Maps

NYCmap.bmpBoth Microsoft and Google are adding new features to their Map applications available online, and frankly both look pretty cool.

And while this is clearly another case of the two high tech giants battling it out for Internet eyeballs, it’s interesting to note that the two companies took very different approaches to how they wanted to give users a whole new way to view their map results.

Microsoft is now offering three-dimensional, photo-realistic views of New York City buildings and landscapes via Microsoft Live Search Maps. Using its system, and taking note that Windows Media Player 9 is strictly required, a Live Search Maps user can fly through the New York streets in a gray scale but detailed 3-D map of the city. Google Maps, on the other hand, is now offering its Street View as actual 360 degree photographed images of areas a user might be interested in. The Google Maps Street View images can also be manipulated to swing around your point of view or “move” down the street.

In addition to New York City, Microsoft is planning on providing cityscapes of Austin, Texas; Cape Coral, Fla.; Cincinnati, Ohio; Indianapolis, Ind., including the Indianapolis Motor Speedway; Northampton, England; Ottawa; Savannah, Ga. and Tampa, Fla. Google is starting off its Street View with the San Francisco Bay Area, New York, Las Vegas, Denver and Miami. Google is also launching Mapplets, as a developers tool to enable third party companies to create mini applications that can be displayed on Google Maps. These Mapplets contain a variety of information, from housing listings to crime data, and tools like distance measurement, the company said.

Of course, what tickles me about these two approaches is that it looks like Microsoft spent a lot of man hours and technology on creating a virtual world directly from the real one, while Google just sent somebody out with a camera and told them to take a picture every quarter mile or so. Time will tell which system appeals to users more.

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