Planning a trip with Google Maps just got a lot more fun, as the company is now letting users plan their travel routes in 3D using Google Earth.
That's right. Maps users looking to drive, bike or take a bus or train can check out so-called helicopter views using the 3D preview feature. First, users must make sure they have the Google Earth plug-in installed to use this feature.
Then, users must enter their starting and destination points and however they are traveling. Finally, they must click the 3D play button and the map will switch to Google Earth View to start "flying" users along the routes Maps has selected based on the directions.
What's cool is users can pause the flight path by clicking in the 3D view or on the pause button in the lower left:
While paused, the route may be explored by clicking and dragging the map. Or click on a different leg of the trip to flit around the route.
Tired of 3D? Click the 2D button in the left panel.
Why this feature hasn't been added prior to last week is beyond me; it seems like a no-brainer integration between Earth and Maps.
I mean, we already access Earth footage in Maps as it is, so why did this tie-in take so long? Must be a technical reason.
Things I would change: We can pause the route play by clicking the pin, but why can't we resume the route the same way? Also, show us businesses around the route. Suggest restaurants and shops based on our interests.
Oh, but that would be serendipitous search, and Google isn't ready to show us that yet. I can't wait for it though!