Google Maps, which has been the subject of a big redesign since May 2013, is now finished and available to users as a default online application to help them get around from point to point.
The redesign’s completion and the availability of the latest Maps services were announced by Brian McClendon, vice president of Google Maps, in a Feb. 19 post on the Google Lat Long Blog.
“Over the coming weeks, the new Google Maps will make its way onto desktops around the world,” wrote McClendon. “Many of you have been previewing it since its debut last May, and thanks to your helpful feedback, we’re ready to make the new Maps even more widely available.”
Google had unveiled a series of innovative updates for Google Maps at its annual Google I/O developers conference in May 2013, including a more interactive look and feel for Maps. The new Google Maps takes a novel approach to how people use online and mobile maps. Maps gains the ability to respond to user inputs instantly—making recommendations on places to visit and highlighting information that matters most during a map inquiry. The new generation of the Maps service essentially creates maps that are unique to each user and his or her needs, based on the input from the user.
“It’s now even easier to plan your next trip, check live traffic conditions, discover what’s happening around town, and learn about a new area—with Pegman’s help if needed,” wrote McClendon.
Amid the changes and improvements in the new Maps is the ability to search for “coffee” in a neighborhood on a map, and be shown local results and snippets right on the map, he wrote. “When you click on a cafe, the map will suggest related results that you may not have known about.”
Also improved are specific directions that can be provided, whether you are traveling by car, bicycle or mass transit, wrote McClendon. “Find the most efficient route for you, with your best options laid out on the map, including the time and distance for each route. And with the new real-time traffic reports and Street View previews, you’ll become a commuting ninja.”
Improved rich imagery in the latest Maps version “takes you to notable landmarks, sends you flying above mountains in 3D, and gives you a sneak peek of businesses you plan to visit,” wrote McClendon. “The new ‘carousel’ at the bottom of the map makes all this imagery easy to access, so you can explore the world with a click.”
The new version is still subject to updates and improvements that will continue over time, he noted. “With any product redesign, there may be bumps along the road. We’re hoping that you’re as excited as we are to navigate uncharted territory in pursuit of the perfect map.”
Google is always expanding the reach of its Google Maps services.
Earlier in February, Google updated its Google Maps Android API Utility Library with two key new data visualization features—marker clustering and heat maps—that are aimed at improving the tools developers have when they are building apps for Google Maps on Android.
Google Maps Update Rolls Out Live for All Users
The marker-clustering feature will be useful for developers when they place a lot of data on display in their apps and the appearance gets messy and cluttered. Developers can also now customize the appearance of individual and clustered markers using the tool. The heat maps, which are also known as intensity maps, represent geospatial data on a map by using different colors to represent areas. A heat map can be used to visualize any data set that has a geospatial component, such as the population of cities around the world.
In December 2013, Google Maps unveiled its public data program, which allows organizations to distribute their map content to consumers using Google’s cloud infrastructure. The first group to join the nascent effort was The National Geographic Society, which is contributing some 500 of its spectacular map images to the public data program.
Many of the National Geographic maps over time have been collected and saved by recipients, but the rest of the world can’t access them when they are stored in attics and basements, so National Geographic joined the program to help disseminate their data. By putting the selected maps into Google Maps, the group will now be able to turn its maps into interactive full-screen images that can be panned and zoomed and overlaid with lots of great data.
The Google Maps Engine public data program provides advanced tools that allow map producers to publish their public mapping content to the world. Organizations that produce maps, such as public data providers and governments can apply to participate in the program.
In October 2013, 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 data sets and create more complex maps.
In July 2013, 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 2013, 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 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.