Back in December of last year Google released Maps 5.0 for Android devices, it had a 3D images feature but for only a few areas such as New York. Now in an update Android Google Maps gets the 3D treatment in more locations including London.
It’s not only the Android version which has been updated, as the desktop version of Google Maps now includes 3D buildings powered by vector graphics. Now according to eWeek the Android application has 3D buildings in Barcelona, Lisbon, London, Singapore, Stockholm, and eleven major cities in South Africa.
The vector graphics which Google’s 3D maps use, dynamically draw the map on the Android device. The user can tilt rotate and zoom in on the images. The buildings show up as outlines between the streets, this allows users to use landmarks for navigation.
Using two fingers to drag down tilts the map or twisting with two fingers rotates it. If you slide two fingers together or apart will zoom the map in and out. Tapping on the compass button will flip into 3D mode and it will start rotating to match your perspective.
Previously the maps were downloaded as individual 256 x 256 pixel image tiles, with each having their own map imagery. But now the app uses vector tiles that give the maps more flexibility to re-create the same map from different angles but using the same data.
Google have made no official announcement regarding the 3D buildings on the desktop version, but if you do a quick search of London landmarks will reveal that many places are already displayed in 3D.
Once it has been completed the Shard in London will be the tallest building in Europe, but the 3D version in Google Maps is based from an early stage of construction. Some of the cranes which are being used to build it have been converted into vertical slabs.
Users of Android wanting to look at some of the new 3D buildings don’t need to update the Google Maps application. But they will need a device running Android 2.0 or later that supports 3D buildings. You can get real 3D views in the Google Street View which now covers most UK roads. British users can view 238,000 miles of public roads via 360 degree images.