“Improving the availability of more high quality imagery is one of the many ways we’re continuing to bring you the most comprehensive and accurate maps of the world,” wrote Eric Kolb, a “geo data strategist” at Google, in an official company blog post.
Specifically, Kolb wrote that Google had added updated aerial imagery for 20 locations, satellite imagery for 60 regions and Google’s new “45-degree” angle imagery — which, rather than straight down, shows locations from a slight sideways tilt, giving them more depth and helping Google’s other mapping quest: to create 3D maps of metropolitan areas.
“This angle enables people to explore the sides of buildings, rotate around a particular point of interest and see it from different perspectives, and get a more complete and realistic view of an area,” a Google spokesperson added to TPM.
The new imagery provides more detailed views of many U.S. cities — 43, according to a list provided by Google — as well as some international locations, among them, Mecca, in Saudi Araba. One screenshot of the new high-resolution view of Mecca, showing the world’s tallest clocktower, the Abraj Al Bait, or Mecca Royal Hotel Clock Tower, can be seen at the top of this article.
As for where Google obtained the new data for the high-resolution and 45-degree-angle views, a Google spokesperson provided the following statement to TPM:
The high-res imagery available on Google Earth and Google Maps are aggregated from a variety of sources, including agencies, geological survey organizations, commercial imagery providers and more. We regularly add new imagery and provide refreshed imagery for locations around the world as we’re able to acquire it — this is part of our ongoing goal to create a representation of the world that’s as comprehensive and accurate as possible.
The moves come on the heels of a number of recent enhancements to Google Maps: Among them, the company’s expansion of turn-by-turn navigation directions — essentially its competitor and de-facto replacement for TomTom and Garmin GPS devices — to areas in India; biking route directions in 13 countries; and an expansion of StreetView — Google’s eye-popping interactive ground-level views of any given place — to 150 university campuses around the world and 30 archeological sites in Mexico.
Google in August released the following video ad touting the growth of its mapping areas:
Google’s mapping project, nicknamed “Ground Truth,” was also recently profiled in The Atlantic.
All of the attention on the new services comes as Google Maps faces new challenges in the digital mapping market.
For instance, the new Kindle Fire line of devices from Amazon doesn’t include Google Maps by default (or any mapping application for that matter), despite running a heavily modified version of Google’s Android operating system.
It’s been apparent since June that come this fall — likely next week — Apple will be kicking Google Maps out of its position as the default map app on the iPhone and iPad, to be replaced with a map system of Apple’s own making, using data gathered from TomTom and OpenStreetMap, among others. This change will, in-effect, cause the third-party apps available on Apple’s devices to turn to Apple Maps for their location needs. Instagram is just one noteworthy example.
OpenStreetMap, a crowdsourced map created by volunteer cartographers around the globe, has seen adoption skyrocket in the past year, especially among businesses, many of whom have defected from Google Maps. The latest business to use OpenStreetMap was none-other than the change-resistant classified ads giant Craigslist.
One theory behind the increasing business flight from Google Maps is that the company just this year began charging heavy business users of its Google Maps application programming interface (API), the code that allows software developers outside the company to use Google Maps data.
Still, Google Maps remains the most popular digital mapping site in the world, according to third-party tracking firm Alexa.