Google Inc. has improved Google Maps with immersive views of streets from a handful of U.S. cities, as well as with miniapplications that can be embedded on a map.
The Street View feature places users at the road level, giving them the perspective of drivers and pedestrians and thus offering a deeper and more detailed experience of the location than aerial images provide.
So far, Microsoft Corp. has been at the forefront of immersive online maps imagery, introducing so-called bird's-eye views in late 2005 that allowed users to tilt aerial images and view them from an angle. In November of last year, Microsoft unveiled 3D views of 15 U.S. cities, a feature that lets users zoom in and out of these urban areas and get a three-dimensional view of buildings, terrain and the like. On Tuesday, Microsoft increased the number of cities available in 3D in its Live Search mapping site.
Google debuted Street View on Tuesday with major roads in San Francisco, New York, Las Vegas, Miami, and Denver and promises to add more cities "in the near future."
Meanwhile, Google also announced it is now possible to build lightweight applications so that users can mash them up with Google Maps. Called Mapplets, these gadget applications will be available in the Maps site for users to choose from and apply to their maps. Currently in preview mode, Mapplets can be found in a special version of Google Maps for users who want to try them out.
Mapplets take the concept of Google Maps mashups one step further, Google said. Previously, developers could build an application on top of Maps and make it available on a specific Web site. Now, those mashups can be packaged as a Mapplet so that multiple can be combined on a single Maps Web site.
Developers can find more information about creating these mapplets in this documentation page. To allow for the creation of Mapplets, Google merged two of its existing application programming interfaces: the Gadgets API and the Maps API.