Web Mapping Options Multiply
Today's column reviews a couple of nifty new tweaks to Web mapping services from Google and Microsoft. Here's a little more background on the subject:
* Microsoft says it now offers those 3D views in 73 cities total. The District is not yet among them--but Cincinnati, Tampa, East L.A. and Baltimore are. Where's the love, people?!
* In a broader sense, the difficulty involved in putting together things like 3-D flyovers or street-scene panoramas will probably limit them to more populated areas. It will be yet another way in which geography can dictate your access to digital information (sort of like how Google Maps only provides low-resolution imagery for many rural locations).
* Speaking of Google Maps, the company's product manager for that site, Stephen Chau, said the company takes the photos used in Street View by driving specially equipped vans down streets. He wouldn't say which cities were getting this treatment, but he did say that the vehicles involved "basically resemble... a van with some luggage racks." So if you see one matching that description, fix your hair and tuck in your shirt, just in case you're about to be immortalized on Google Maps. (Chau has some additional info about Street View in his blog post.)
* Beyond the research uses I mentioned in the column, these kinds of street-level perspectives can also help people who navigate more by visual cues than street names. (Hi, Mom! :)) If you often give directions like "make a left at the old bank building, then turn right by the big oak tree," this is just the thing for you.
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