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New Google Maps: Hands On

By Sami Mughal

One of the biggest things that came out of Google I/O 2013 was the new Google Maps. Since they are offering a preview service, we signed up and here is a little hands on tour through what we found and our opinions.

First of all, if you would like to get in on the experience, click on the following link:

http://maps.google.com/preview or http://maps.google.com/help/maps/helloworld/desktop/preview/ 

The first one was the one quoted during the show, which didn’t work then, but it reroutes to the second one, so you get there anyway, or hey, just click the image below!


Once you go in, you are presented with this screen:


Your map is your UI’ was the statement they made over and over while presenting this, and this is something you see in the picture above. It seems to always open in ‘map’ mode and gives you a few drop down options that show you your last few searches. As you can see, it is already urging you to explore your area.

The ‘satellite’ mode has now been renamed ‘Earth’, and to see that view, you click on the Earth button in the bottom left corner.

In the bottom right corner, the + and – buttons are for zoom.

The button below helps you ‘Explore’ the area, and clicking on it exposes a bottom bar which shows you highlights of the area you see in your map.


What is cool is if you hover your mouse above one of these, a small line indicates where it exists on the map.


So since we are from Oxford, we put in Oxford and we get the image above.

A little Home shaped symbol actually shows where you live, and that is something this picks up out of Google Now. Some people may not like it, others might.

Now if we click on one of the pictures on the Explore bar, it gives pictures, a 3D street view, or my favourite, a movie, which gives you a 3D tour of the site. For example, while the image is a bit small, clicking on the Christ Church Cathedral gives you an awesome 3D video tour of one of the best parts of Oxford. Obviously hovering above these once again points to where they are on the map.

If you type in ‘Pizza’ now, you will see the following appear:


Note that you also see an AD from Dominoes. This is another feature where they have added different offers from various places in the area you search. This obviously allows you to get the best deals when you do a simple search. Once again, sticking with the Map is your UI statement. You also see an Ad from Pizza Hut, but that doesn’t have an offer.

Clicking on Atomic Pizza gives you the following image:


Hovering above the left top bit, and you get photos, reviews, and other such ratings.

Now, if you notice the Home bit, it shows ‘14 min – Transit’. If you want to calculate Transit or anyway to get there, click on that link.


The ‘Navigation’ bit opens now. It tells you how to get to Atomic Pizza. The options are driving, Transit, walking and cycling. Cycling is quite big in Oxford, so it is a very handy feature to have. The blue bit shows walking/transit combo. While the thick grey line shows the walking option. Clicking on the different icons will give you the option you want.

It should be noted that the ‘flight’ mode is not working for us yet.

As a transit option, it actually gives you all the buses available on that route, and how often they are. Easier than a list of buses to choose from.

Speaking of cycling, if you click on ‘Bicycling’, it even gives you all the related routes that are friendly for cycling in the city.


Now, for some of the other new features they showed off.

If you keep zooming out, you get the ‘Earth’ features in. You can see the whole planet:


Now they say that the clouds you see in the picture are shown in real time. You can see a thick layer of cloud at the bottom of UK, and it is cloudy, so I can only tell you that it seems to work. I guess it could get more interesting as this progresses and puts in more detail.

Zoom out even further, and Earth goes out in space, and you have a day/night view of the planet, with the beautiful sun behind. It doesn’t seem to show as much detail as was evident in the Google I/O, but I think it might just be down to how our monitor shows it. Sadly, you can’t really zoom into this view, as it goes back into older views if you zoom in any further.


So there you go, here is our little run down of the new Google Maps. It is very exciting and interesting, and the new UI features are definitely an improvement over everything we have seen in the past.


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