Google Maps Goes 3D, Offline, and Offroad

We can’t remember how we got around before Google Maps; scratch that, actually we do, but we try to forget, because the present technology is so much better, easier to use, and more powerful. Not content to sit on its laurels, though, Google announced some significant upgrades to Google Maps at an event in San Francisco.

First off, Street View is going off road with Street View Trekker. Simply put, Google has evolved its Street View scope from car-mounted cameras on roads to the tricycle camera shooting harder-to-reach places to spelunkers documenting caves. Now, the company has developed a backpack-mounted camera that a person can schlep pretty much anywhere in the world; you can see very happy Luc Vincent, Street View engineering director, doing his dream job with Street View Trekker below.

Documenting every square inch of the globe is a huge task, and it takes a long time; meanwhile, things change. Buildings, parks, and neighborhoods come and go, new streets are laid down, and others are demolished. To keep pace with these changes, Google built Map Maker to crowd-source data added by users who edited maps to keep pace with changes around them, and the tool is now launching in South Africa, Egypt, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Norway and Switzerland.

Google has also added the capability for users to download maps and store them them on Android devices (hmm, what about iOS?) for offline use. Maps from over 100 countries are available, making traveling in a new part of town or a new part of the world that much easier.

Finally, Google Earth now features entire metropolitan areas in 3D--for mobile devices--and Google plans to cover metro areas containing over 300 million people by the end of the year. (Hey, that’s roughly the population of the U.S.!) Peep the video above; that 3D rendering is simply gorgeous.