Google has launched its Google MapsGL experiment to test 3D map rendering to its popular application. Check it out in Chrome and Firefox using new browser versions and graphics cards.
Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) has applied technology from WebGL
(Web Graphics Library) to its Google Maps application to render maps in 3D.
Overseen by Mozilla Foundation, WebGL is an open-source 3D
Web apps without requiring users to install software on their computers.
Mozilla, Apple, Opera and graphics hardware vendors have been working together
to standardize WebGL, whose magic happens in the browser.
Google has offered a couple interesting implementations
of WebGL for its Chrome Web browser, including the
"3 Dreams of Black" and "All is Not Lost" experiments, which are well
choreographed and set to music.
Now Google has pointed its WebGL expertise to Google
MapsGL, which offers users 3D renditions of buildings, 45 degree aerial view
rotations, and the ability to swoop into Street View. Previously, these stylized,
3D maps have only been accessible via the Google Maps for Android applications
for smartphones and Honeycomb tablets.
However, while that Android mobile app loads pre-rendered
image tiles from servers, Google MapsGL sends vector data for the map to the browser and
renders it on the fly using WebGL. See a demo here
enabled the experiment in Google Maps from our
Windows 7 Dell Latitude desktop, which was running Chrome 14.
We then took the
tour, which offered us the ability to check out buildings in Westminster Abbey
in London, England, which rendered well in 3D, if not a tad slowly.
We then took 45 degree aerial satellite views of Rome's
Colosseum via Google Earth to see the front faces of buildings rather than just
the roof tops.
We also clicked the rotate button for 360 degree views around
the Colosseum. Grabbing the pegman icon let us swing swiftly into Street View
to check out city streets in Rome.
Google MapsGL worked well enough. However, it should be
noted that access to this early form of Google MapsGL is limited to modern
browsers, including Chrome 14 and later and Mozilla Firefox 8 or newer, as well
as computers with powerful graphics cards.
These include Mac OS Snow Leopard
10.6+, Lion 10.7+ Windows Vista or Windows 7 and Linux.