Google one day is going to have Labs for everything it does. Well, maybe not, but the company Feb. 12 formally introduced Google Maps Labs.
Like the other Google Labs before it, Maps Labs is an experiment devoted to building new features that let users view Google Maps in different ways and augment them with different tools.
Click on the green flask icon at the top right of the screen in Google Maps to see pick the new features you want to enable. Red arrow indicates the Labs flask:
Maps Labs boasts nine features from the start. Aerial imagery provides imagery from the sky. The Drag 'n' Zoom control lets users zoom in on a location by dragging a box around it. Smart Zoom will check in advance what imagery exists, and ensure users can't zoom beyond it.
The What's Around Here button adds a second search button that lets users conduct searches for nearby businesses. The Where in the World quiz challenges users' geography chops. Rotable Maps turn maps upside down.
LatLong Marker lets users drop a mini marker showing the latitude and longitude of the position that the cursor was pointing at when the context menu was evoked. The similar LatLong Tooltip displays a tool tip next to the mouse cursor showing the lat/long directly underneath it.
Finally, the Back to Beta option lets users enjoy the seminal Google Maps.
Should the Labs features users enable -- note they are only opt-in (Google Buzz engineers should take some notes) -- break or users just grow tired of them, they can
click this link to disable all Labs or choose those they want to keep.
In order for Google to "remember," or retain, your Maps Labs settings for future visits, users must be logged into their Google account. If these features catch on, they may one day end up in Google Maps.
Google has a solid track record of nurturing Labs features and helping them graduate to official products and features. Google Social Search just left Google's Labs section (Aardvark, which Google just acquired, took its place).
Other labs cover more focused niches and include Gmail Labs, which graduated Tasks last July; Google Apps Labs; Calendar Labs; Google Code Labs; Search Experiments; Toolbar Labs; and YouTube TestTube.
Try out Google Maps Labs features and let me know what you think.