Changing your perspective

Tuesday, December 8, 2009 at 5:00 AM


As an avid travel planner or discerning house hunter, you might always be looking for another view of a location before you make your final decision. On the Google Maps team we're always looking for ways to make search experiences like this more useful for you. This is what inspired our plans to provide a new type of mapping imagery.

Starting today, developers will have access through the Google Maps API to high-resolution overhead imagery that is presented in a new aerial perspective. This is currently available in 2 spots in California: San Jose and San Diego. This new perspective gives users the ability to tilt their view of the world. In addition to seeing hotel rooftops like in our current "satellite" view, users can now see both the rooftop and sides of the hotel at an angle. In fact, users can rotate around all the sides of a hotel to get 4 different views from back to front.

While the imagery is great to look at, we wanted to make sure it was also a useful tool for users. Consequently, we decided to stitch thousands of images together so that users can smoothly pan across the map in perspective. This makes it especially easy to maintain context while viewing what buildings look like from the ground and where they're located.

Since it's often easier to show than tell, a few of our travel and real estate partners have added this imagery to their Google Maps implementations. Whenever you're checking out this new feature, be sure to rotate the ring around the compass to see all the various perspectives of the property.

Orbitz uses this new aerial imagery within its search experience for hotels. Search either for San Diego hotels or San Jose hotels, then click on the "Map" link within any individual hotel card and zoom in from the Satellite view. You'll quickly see how valuable this will be for your next hotel booking:

Online real estate brokerage Redfin presents an "angled" view of their properties with an embedded Google map that utilizes this new aerial imagery to help home buyers get a much better sense of an entire lot and neighborhood. They include it within the property details for homes in San Diego and San Jose (scroll down to the map and select "Angled"):

Trulia integrates this new imagery on profile pages for all real estate listings, recently sold homes, and property records in San Jose and San Diego. They present this as "Perspective view" for these homes to complement photos, which you'll find located below the default map for each property:
We're very excited about how these new perspectives on a property will help to improve your geographic searching, whether it's for a new home, a great hotel for your next trip, or any of the other cool uses that developers come up with.

If you're a geo developer, please read our the Geo Developers Blog or review the implementation documentation that will explain how to quickly add this to your Google Maps API implementation. What's great about this new imagery is that all of your existing data and Google Maps services like driving directions can be displayed on your map with no extra work. This is a result of a lot of code and computing power that reprojects the imagery to make it easy to overlay data on the map given lat/lon locations like in any other Google Map type. The result is a great user experience together with easy display of data on the map.

In the coming months, we'll be working hard to improve the existing imagery and release more cities. We can't wait to see what creative mashups and tools the Maps API development community creates with it!