Bing Maps Makes It Harder to Get Lost in Japan

Microsoft is making it easier to get around in Japan, particularly for English speakers, and to visualize more cities in 3D.


Bing Maps users who visit the island nation of Japan now have a new navigational aid.

The company has bulked up its mass transit features for the country, said Microsoft's Bing Team in an Aug. 25 announcement. "With this release, we've expanded the number of agencies and routes in Bing Maps," they stated. "This means that no matter where you're heading in Japan, if there's a transit route that can get you there, we know about it and can tell you how to use it."

Enhancements include more detailed walking directions at the start and conclusion of a trip, as well as between stops. An accompanying screenshot of a jaunt to Tokyo Tower shows how Bing Maps routing capabilities provide "guidance about which side of the street to walk on and the locations of crosswalks."

Bing Maps is also more accommodating of English-speaking travelers.

Microsoft developers "extended Bing Maps to include English translations of station names, so that even if you're a tourist who cannot read Japanese, you will find the right train," said the company. "Previously, when we provided instructions about which trains to take or which stations to depart from, the only data provided were the names in Japanese."

Translation services have emerged as a focus of Microsoft's development efforts of late.

Early this year, Microsoft enabled voice input for its Bing Translator App for Windows, complementing the software's existing text-to-speech translation capabilities that cover over 40 languages. Microsoft also enhanced the app's camera-based visual translation feature to accommodate portrait and landscape captures. "Simply point your camera, scan and translate printed language using your tablet or PC to create subtitles for everyday life," boasted the company in a Jan. 14 statement.

In May, the company showed off real-time translation software called Skype Translator. Based on neural net technology from Microsoft Research, the software provided near-perfect English to German translations, and vice versa, of a Skype video call. Microsoft hopes to publish a Windows 8 beta version of the app before year's end.

The Japanese Bing Maps updates follow last week's release of more 3D cities for the Bing Maps Preview app. Available only on Windows 8.1, the app renders popular destinations in 3D maps that pan, zoom and rotate. The latest batch of locations brings the total number of 3D cities to more than 125. New locations include Atlanta, Copenhagen, Houston, New Orleans and tourist favorite Disney World.

Streetside, Microsoft's answer to Google Street View, also received a big update. The number of Streetside cities surpasses 100 and includes places like Boston, Chicago and San Bernardino, Calif.

Finally, the Bing Maps now grants users access to pixel-packed aerial photography. "New high-resolution imagery is available on Bing Maps in over 150 countries on every continent in the world," stated the Bing Team in a blog post. The collection includes images captured by UltraCam Osprey cameras mounted on aircraft and satellites courtesy of Digital Globe, among other sources.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...