Google Updates Street View With Better Rendering, Mobile Support

A new Street View renderer for the JavaScript API in Google Maps provides smoother transitions and better image rendering. Mobile users will see the biggest improvements.

Google Street View

Users of Google Street View soon will see substantial improvements in the quality of the panoramic images that are viewable via the application.

Google has rolled out a new Street View renderer for the JavaScript API in Google Maps that the company says addresses several shortcomings in the old renderer such as jerky transitions and image stuttering when new content is loading.

Mobile users of Street View will see the most noticeable improvements, thanks to the use of WebGL in the new renderer, Google Maps product manager Elena Kelareva wrote on the company's Geo Developers Blog.

WebGL enables rendering of 3D graphics in certain browsers without the need for any additional software plug-ins.

The technology allows for a better frame rate and better rendering overall on mobile devices, Kelareva said. For example, with the old renderer, images would be rendered as a fish-eye projection on mobile devices. The WebGL support in the new renderer enables images to be presented as they look in reality, she said.

Mobile device users will now also be able to interact with Street View via touch in the same manner that they have been able to with the Google Maps application for Android. For instance, instead of having to use "plus" or "minus" buttons to zoom or to click arrows to change their point of view, mobile device users can pinch to zoom in on something and double-tap to change their perspective.

Support for a device orientation feature in the new renderer will allow mobile device users to look around in Street View simply by moving their device. Developers using the Google Maps JavaScript API will have the ability to turn the motion-tracking feature off if they choose to do so.

The new renderer also offers improvements for desktop users. For instance, users of desktop systems equipped with a trackpad or mouse will now see a small "X" marking the next cursor location for moving forward. Similarly, rectangles on buildings and other structures will indicate the direction in which the camera will point toward, if a user chooses to look around.

The new renderer also allows for cleaner display of street names and labels by separating them from the directional controls in Street View, Kelareva said. Other improvements include smoother transitions, smoother loading animations and better object modeling, she added.

For example, tall buildings and other vertical structures that used to be rendered with wavy lines in the old renderer will now appear with crisp, straight lines, according to Google. Similarly, the new renderer uses lower-resolution images while loading, so users get smoother animation when an image is rotated in Street View. Transitions from one point to another in Street View will also appear a lot smoother because of the use of more animation frames between transitions.

Google launched Street View as an add-on feature to Maps in 2007. It allows people to get a street-level view of their surroundings and of locations around the world. Initially, the feature was available only in a handful of cities. But over the years, Google has enabled Street Views in countries in all seven continents.

Jaikumar Vijayan

Jaikumar Vijayan

Vijayan is an award-winning independent journalist and tech content creation specialist covering data security and privacy, business intelligence, big data and data analytics.