The Google Maps team just made a significant hire, bringing in Blaise Agüera y Arcas from Microsoft, where he had helped develop Microsoft's Bing Maps.
The move to Google by Agüera y Arcas was unveiled in a Dec. 15 blog post in The New York Times, which noted that he will work on machine learning at Google, based on several sources. "Mr. Agüera y Arcas was involved in a variety of development projects at Microsoft including some on augmented reality, wearable computing and natural user interfaces," the story reported. "One of the most recent efforts he oversaw at the company was a new version of Photosynth, a service for creating immersive, 3-D panoramas."
Agüera y Arcas also wrote about his job change in his personal blog in a Dec. 16 post, calling the move "the hardest decision of my life."
He wrote that the move to Google is "on one hand, of course this is tremendously exciting; Google is a company of grand ambitions and brilliant people. On the other hand it has been hard – very hard – to detach emotionally from Microsoft. The company's leadership has been consistently good to me over these past eight years, and it has been a time filled with creativity and growth and good friends. It's painful to leave behind so many wonderful ongoing projects, and even more so to leave behind such a great team."
Adam Sohn, a spokesman for Microsoft, told The New York Times that Agüera y Arcas "was a great colleague and we wish him the best in his future endeavors."
A spokesperson for Google confirmed the hire but had no further comments at the time.
For Google, hiring away a prized Microsoft engineer is certainly a coup.
Agüera y Arcas has been a speaker at the annual TED conferences, where he has presented about Bing, augmented reality and more.
Google Maps is a huge and growing part of Google. Earlier in December, Google announced that it will now be receiving map content from The National Geographic Society's immense paper map collection under its new public data program.
Under the arrangement, Google Maps will obtain spectacular map imagery from some 500 maps from the National Geographic Society. Under the newly launched Google Maps Engine public data program, organizations can now distribute their map content to consumers using Google's cloud infrastructure, according to Google.
And that's where National Geographic's contribution comes in, bringing digital images of many of the long-popular printed maps that are often tucked inside the latest issues of the magazine. To do that, National Geographic will also use Google Maps Engine to overlay its maps with interactive editorial content, so the maps can "tell stories" and raise awareness about environmental issues and historic events. The maps will be available for free access, but the group also plans to sell or license high-resolution and print versions to raise funds for the Society.
In October, Google released Google Maps Engine Pro to make it easier for businesses to use online maps to attract customers and new revenue. The new professional mapping tool lets businesses visualize their huge amounts of critical data on maps so they can take advantage of the new resources the data provides, according to Google. Google Maps Engine Pro was built as an application on top of the Google Maps Engine platform, which provides businesses with cloud-based technology to help them organize large datasets and create more complex maps.
In July, Google Maps unveiled a new maps layer for developers so that they can better integrate their data with images in Google Maps. The innovative DynamicMapsEngineLayer gives developers the abilities to perform client-side rendering of vector data, allowing developers to dynamically restyle the vector layer in response to user interactions like hover and click, according to the company. The new maps layer makes it easier for developers to visualize and interact with data hosted in Google Maps Engine.
In June, Google for the first time released its Google Maps Engine API to developers so they can build consumer and business applications that incorporate the features and flexibility of Google Maps. With the Maps API, developers can now use Google's cloud infrastructure to add their data on top of a Google Map and share that custom mash-up with consumers, employees or other users. The API provides direct access to Maps Engine for reading and editing spatial data hosted in the cloud, according to Google.