[Updated: 1130 PT] John Hanke of Google has just announced at Where 2.0 a new cool feature for Google Maps. It’s only available in five cities (San Francisco, Miami, Denver, Las Vegas, New York), but this is definitely worth trying out! You have to have the latest Flash (version 9 or newer) to use this new feature. It lets you view street level views based on photos taken by a car driving along the streets. The photos are very high resolution, so you actually can have up to 16x zoom to let you pan and get closer to things at the ground level for a location. John showed an example of looking at a parking lot and being able to zoom in and read the sign to determine whether it was a public parking area and what the price for parking is. Attached is a screenshot of a view from near the Golden Gate Bridge. The really interesting thing with this is zooming and panning around. You can also drag the little human icon to pick a new location for viewing.
Here’s a video by Google showing off the new feature. Here’s their post about it at the Google Lat Long Blog
Amazon had previously done something similar, called A9 Maps, where they had street level photos. But, the interactivity and zooming levels of Google’s implementation seems to make it more appealing. Chances are Google has a better chance of making this popular. No word yet on whether this directly or indirectly has to do with the announcement of licensing Stanford’s robotic car technology to make 3D buildings.
Also announced is “Google Mapplets”. More details at the Google Lat Long Blog. This allows you to create a maps mashup on the fly. You can have multiple maps selectable by radio buttons. It uses a Google Gadget to add to the Google Maps interface a new tab. Here’s a preview.