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Google Maps Offers New Views & Collaboration Features

Working in a library where I am subjected to the random, erratic questions of library patrons, I’m a pretty avid user of Google Maps. From looking up a quick phone number to pulling up directions or an address for someone, it comes in handy and helps me find the information far more quicker than I could looking it up in a phone book or pulling out maps. And even at home I find myself consulting Google Maps pretty frequently. Can’t remember the phone number to the local Chinese joint? I just Google it and am on my merry way. If I’m googling from my iPhone, I just click the link to the phone number, and I’m connected right to the business. You get the point.

Well this week Google has announced a few new updates to the Maps service, which promises to enhance the service and its possibilities even more. New additions to Google Maps include collaboration features, terrain maps, and something called “street views”.

My Maps Group Collaboration

My Maps, a feature of Google Maps that allows you to create maps to share an assortment of information, such as your favorite hiking trails or the best beaches in Florida, has been extended further to allow group collaboration. Once you’ve started a My Map, you can invite people to help work on it with you, much in the same fashion that you can invite people to share your Google Docs, Spreadsheets, or Calendar.Or, if you choose, you can open up your map to global editing by anyone in the world. This feature has a lot of potential to be used by various groups and organizations, and I believe is a natural extension of the My Maps service that fits well into the Google Map family.

Google Maps Terrain View

Another new feature of Google Maps is the inclusion of the terrain view. Previously, this was only available on Google Earth and was last remaining differences between Google Maps and Google Earth. In the terrain view, you’re able to focus on more of the physical features of an area rather than a standard map-view of the streets. Terrain view gives you an idea of what an area is actually like, and shows things like mountains, rivers, and vegetation. This is a feature that tends to satisfies my curiosity, rather than something I use for research, and I suspect that the same is true for most others.

Street View Now In Google Maps Bubbles

If those weren’t already enough new features for you to play around with, Google announced today the addition of “street views”, which allows you to check out a location from a street level view.This will come in handy when you’re looking for a specific location, such as a pizza place.

Normally when you do such a search, there’s a little pop up bubble on the map with information such as the business’ phone number, address, and website. Now, there will also be a panoramic photo of the location so you can see what it actually look like. How cool is that?

The street views project, which was launched in the US in May, now includes images from 17 cities in North America. It’s been a bit controversial from the start, with some concerned about the privacy issues involved with those who may be snapped in front of the businesses, but Google quickly moved to blur out the identities of those included in the pictures. In just the past week, the street views project and Googlers hit the streets of Australia, where they will begin snapping away photos that will be included in a future update to Google Maps Australia.

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