Google previews upcoming Maps features

A new interface, more recommendations and real-time satellite imagery are coming to the service

By , IDG News Service |  On-demand Software

Google is adding a new level of personalization and a cleaner interface to its popular Maps product.

The next version of Google Maps, which will begin a limited rollout this week, will automatically add a layer of personalized landmarks for each user as long as they are logged into the service. For example, a restaurant a user frequents will be added as one of the landmarks. It might not appear to a different user, who may see a store they visit often instead.

The familiar pins used to mark locations are less widely used. In a demonstration at Google I/O Wednesday, a map showed different icons for different types of establishments. And when a user clicks on, say, a restaurant, they're presented with a panoramic photo of the interior -- though it wasn't clear how many places that feature will be available for.

Each map adjusts itself based on what the user is trying to do. If they're looking at a museum, the map will highlight the roads that approach it. The public transit data has also been improved, and Google will now report a weeklong schedule instead of just the next few trains.

On a larger scale, a view of Earth in Google Maps now includes real-time cloud cover from weather satellites.

Users can sign up to access the new version at http://maps.google.com/preview. Google will begin sending out invitations on Thursday, it said.

On Android, the upcoming version of Google's mapping application will get a new user interface and better search for local businesses.

"Let's take a stroll through San Francisco," said Daniel Graf, head of Google Maps, who was speaking at the I/O event.

An Android app, projected onto a large screen behind him, showed a refreshed interface that includes 3D buildings and local landmarks.

Searching for local restaurants works the same way as before, but users can now choose between reviews from other Android users, from friends, and from the Zagat guide.

Martyn Williams covers mobile telecoms, Silicon Valley and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Martyn on Twitter at @martyn_williams. Martyn's e-mail address is martyn_williams@idg.com

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