Microsoft’s Virtual Earth has a phenomenal addition to Live Search Maps that allows users to create virtual aerial tours. Here’s an example using pictures from my trip to Kauai:
The tours can be exported as a video file and uploaded to a video sharing site (as above) or shared by link to Live Search Maps. Like many such links on AJAX sites, it doesn’t preserve the correct state. Click “Tour in 3D” in the upper left and “aerial” above the map for best effect.
Tours can be created manually by pushing pins into a map. The service also plays nicely with GeoRSS, GPX, KML or KMZ files. The above tour was imported from my flickr pictures. (Unfortunately, flickr caps geo exports to the most recent 20 pictures per search.)
The 3d map tours can be generated from GPS tracklogs. Here’s a tour based on the tracklog from a recent bike trip through San Francisco, taking the ferry back from Sausalito:
Major cities, like San Francisco, benefit from 3D models of key buildings. The blue line in the video is the tracklog.
Both of these tours were created using the default settings. You can also customize the view shown at each location by rotating, tilting or zooming. I don’t see an option to playback the full tracklog.
Disclosure: I work for a Microsoft subsidiary.
The Dash portable navigation device I wrote about earlier is now shipping. Dash has dropped the price $200 from the initial pre-order pricing.
It’s the first true two-way connected PND on the market, using cellular data for search, traffic and community features. Because I now work on automotive products, I’ll pass on reviewing it. The initial coverage from Walt Mossberg and The Washington Post are very positive. The Post story also goes into depth on how traffic services work.
Google is continuing its efforts to turn its My Maps personal mapmaking tools into a geographic blogging platform. Back in October, they added profile pages for map creators. I wrote at the time that it would be nice to have user comments on the maps to introduce flickr-like incentives for map creators.
Today’s release allows viewers to rate maps and leave comments. You can also see statistics on maps, including the number of views and the top referring links to the map.
More on: google, maps, Web 2.0
My friends who’ve seen me walk around with a GPS as I take pictures on vacation or hikes think I’m a little bit odd. But apparently, I’m not the only one. In the 15 months since Flickr officially supported geotagging, more than 35 million pictures have been geotagged — enough that they can launch Flickr Places to show them off.
One of my big complaints with most travel sites is that they downplay the visual and visceral elements that make travel fun. At Flickr Places, that’s front and center. Places offers a gorgeous travelogue of places around the world. You can see pictures, Flickr groups about the location and connect with photographers.
A tag cloud shows the top tags for an area; this sounds more useful than it is. Most places I searched came up with words like clouds, sunset, people, church. It’d be nice if the universal words were thrown out and the focus places on words that are unique or much more common for an area.
I’d also like to be able to zoom in on the map and see where the most photographed places are. (There are some data quality issues with this, but they’re manageable.)
Flickr also changed the way maps are presented. Although the maps and overall presentation are more visually appealing, some key functionality was lost. In the previous version, the map represented your search. If you zoomed in or out, the new map defined the boundaries. As a result, you could see new pictures that didn’t appear in the other view.
The World Map view now provides a tag visualization that shows the latest tags from around the world. (See my earlier coverage of World Explorer from Yahoo! Research.)
More on: flickr, geotagging
Google’s latest changes to My Maps allows you to collaborate on personal maps with others in much the same way you can share a Google Document or Spreadsheet.
You can also allow anyone to edit a map.
Group editing is great for maps that are too hard for one person to scale. Before this release, I started maps of free Wi-Fi and restaurants with outdoor dining. Now I can invite my friends and the public to help build out the maps. Although some of these data is captured by vertical players such as JiWire and Skyhook, the integration with Google’s Local Search brings it to a much wider audience.
Google could use the same platform to have users build out vertical directories to augment data from providers like InfoUSA by actively soliciting users to contribute places on specific topics. This is already happening on an ad hoc basis as users follow their passions and create maps.
We’ve seen news organizations use My Maps to cover stories such as the California wildfires. They could open that up to a collaborative process with their readers.