Google Maps Expands Number of Building Footprints

Google adds 25 million building footprint images to its online maps to make them more relevant and helpful for users.

Google Maps has added 25 million building footprint images to its huge collection of online maps to make it easier for users to "see" and identify buildings in order to locate exact locations for travelers, business users and others.

"As we go about our daily travels, we often rely on buildings to orient ourselves, locate landmarks and navigate from place to place," wrote Bobby Parikh, engineering manager for Google Maps, in an Oct. 18 post on the Google Lat Long Blog. "So, today, we’re expanding the coverage of building footprints that are already available in Google Maps."

The 25 million new building footprints are available to desktop and mobile users and cover many major metropolitan regions in the United States, including Houston, Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami, San Diego and the San Francisco Bay Area, wrote Parikh.

"These building footprints, complete with height detail, are algorithmically created by taking aerial imagery and using computer vision techniques to render the building shapes," wrote Parikh. "This process enables us to provide more building footprints and a more comprehensive and detailed map than ever before."

As part of the new service, Google is also encouraging people to use their own familiarity with the building shapes that have been added to make needed improvements and refinements to the shapes by using the company's community mapping tool, Google Map Maker. "In addition to improving the shapes, you can also assign your favorite local business to an existing building or draw the building footprint for that business using Map Maker," wrote Parikh.

The new buildings footprint feature is the latest in a continuing progression of improvements that Google makes regularly to make its map offerings more useful for users.

Earlier in October, Google updated the Street View images that can be seen in Google Maps along more than 250,000 miles of roads around the world, while also doubling the size of its Street View image collection overall. It was the largest one-time Street View image update ever by the company.

Those new image collections now include detailed photographs of places such as Catherine Palace and Ferapontov Monastery in Russia, the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall and Taroko Gorge in Taiwan, Stanley Park in Vancouver, Canada, and of Singapore's urban jungle, Fort Canning Park.

In September, Street View added its first-ever underwater panoramic images, bringing in colorful and beautiful photographs of underwater reefs in Australia, Hawaii and the Philippines. The images came from the Caitlin Seaview Survey, which is conducting scientific expeditions to explore and map the world's coral reefs.

Also added in September were Street View images for more than 150 colleges and universities around the world, giving online users "you are there" glimpses into more institutions of higher learning in the United States, Japan, Europe and elsewhere. Included in the schools update were UCLA, Pembroke College in the U.K., McGill University in Canada, University of California-Davis, Amherst College, Bowdoin College, Emory University, Florida Atlantic University, Loyola Marymount University, Stetson University, University of Notre Dame and Washington State University.

In August, Google Street View expanded its library by adding images of the remote and beautiful Canadian Arctic hamlet of Cambridge Bay, as well as detailed 360-degree images of retired spacecraft, launching facilities and other notable scenes at NASA's Kennedy Space Center on the Florida coast. Powerful new Street View images tracking the rebuilding of New Orleans following the devastation of 2005's Hurricane Katrina also debuted.

Google's Street View images will likely gain many new users now that the company recently began making the images available through mobile Web browsers. The new services make it much easier for mobile travelers to call up Google Maps and Street View images as they travel.