Today is a day I’ve been waiting for. Today is the day that I can finally stop biting my lip and start blabbing to the world that YES we have Streetside photography in Bing Maps – woohoo! Today is the day we release our beta Silverlight version of Bing Maps and it is smoking hot. We’ve added two new map modes – Streetside and Enhanced Bird’s Eye. We’ve added an Application Gallery to browse applications mashed-in to Bing Maps – sort of the reverse of our APIs where you’re putting Bing Maps onto your site. We’ve added Photosynth and a slew of other features…read on! If you don’t like to read, you can watch the video Laura Foy and I made on Channel 9.
Silverlight UI – The first thing you’ll notice is that the entire site is built in Silverlight. If you don’t want to see the kick-ass experience, Streetside immersion, Enhanced Bird’s Eye, the Application Gallery, integrated 1-click directions, multiple searches and more you can use the Bing Maps AJAX site. Read all about that in my blog post, “Bing Maps Gets An Overhaul…And, Some New Features.”
Streetside™ – Perhaps you’re familiar with our initial release of Streetside photography in a technology preview of Live Search Maps which launched over 2.5 years ago – now, that’s going old school. With the enhancements of Silverlight 3 we’re able to take advantage of the 3D aspects included within the platform and truly immerse users into the site.
There’s a lot to Streetside that I’ll put together in a separate post, but to highlight some features:
- Ground level photographs fully stitched allowing full continuous immersion into the street level landscape
- Rotate images in a full 360 degree panorama
- Zoom-in and out on specific locations within the Streetside photos with the mouse clicks, mouse wheels or navigation controls
- Reverse geocoding tells you your approximate location within an address block
- Vector information of the road drawn onto the images illustrating the street direction and route geometry
- Street labels hovering within the images showing you road names (so you don’t get lost)
- Auto-fade of labels when mouse movement has stopped improving the visual context of the Streetside photos
- Overview map with direction projection image to indicate which direction you’re facing within the image
- Compass rotation allows you to move the photos around you or see which cardinal direction you’re facing
- Previous location button resets your view to the last known good view in case you walk down the wrong street and need to get out of there
Enhanced Bird’s Eye – Ah, our lovely Bird’s Eye photography. There’s just something about viewing an area from the sky using the four cardinal directions. Now, this is not your grandpa’s Bird’s Eye, oh no. We had to up the ante with Silverlight 3, so there are different experiences based on whether you’re in an urban or non-urban area for Enhanced Bird’s Eye – after all, it is “enhanced.”
Urban View – Our investments in photogrammetric processing are being leveraged for a new mode in the urban areas where we’ve captured high resolution photography and stereo data to create models of the respective cities. These models are now a part of Enhanced Bird’s Eye’s Urban View which places our 3D models into a 2D interface with 3D aspect ratio from Silverlight 3.
Non-Urban View – In the non-urban areas, we’re bringing flat facades to life by taking our satellite imagery and aerial photos to re-project the Earth in a way that allows a better perspective of the world.
Application Gallery – Bing Maps is now offering an application gallery for “mapplications” mashed into our consumer site. Now, to be clear we have the Bing Maps Platform for adding Bing Maps to your applications (or mashups). This is a little different – we’ve added a catalogue of applications for you to simplify your search and bookmark your favorite applications that have been built within Bing Maps. At this point you can browse applications like “Local Lens” for hyperlocal content sources associated with cities and in some cases specific neighborhoods; or, the ever popular “Photosynth” where geotagged synths are now integrated natively into the search; or, check out map-based news articles from Newseum in the “Today’s front pages” app. How literally viewing your morning commute with traffic cameras from “TrafficLand?” And, being a mapping team we had to add “Twitter Maps.” Holler! The Twitter Maps application uses the newly release geolocation API from Twitter for geo-positioning actual Tweets. And, yeah, it works in Streetside. SICK!
Photosynth – Photosynth is now natively integrated into Bing Maps. This means you can zip down from space down into someone’s house…not kidding. If you’ve built a synth on Photosynth.com and geo-annotated it (the little globe icon) your synth gets indexed into Bing Maps. To view a synth on Bing Maps, open the app in the Application Gallery then explore where synths are available. Once you “Dive in” to one, you see more Silverlight 3 perspective 3D kick in as we tilt the canvas and load the synth in the appropriate location. If you aren’t making Photosynths, be a part of the fun via Photosynth.com. For a deeper dive into the Photosynth experience, check out the Photosynth blog.
Simultaneous Multiple Searches – Back by popular demand and better than ever, you can now perform multiple searches adding different content layers to the map at once. Search for tweets, local blogs, business search, and Photosynth on the map all at the same time. This is fantastic for searching for a restaurant, then searching for Tweets near the restaurant and maybe a Photosynth of the location. Then throw on the enhanced Enhanced Bird’s Eye to get a real feel for the area.
Local Search Integration – You’ve seen Bing Maps integrating into Bing Local Search. Well, now, we’ve taken Bing Local Search and integrated it with Bing Maps. Check out the super rich data available within the expandable results screen panel. Expand, collapse or pin the panel – fit for your convenience.
Simplified Navigation – We’ve simplified the navigation by positioning the navigation, zoom and map modes to the bottom of the page. Within the map icon you can select Automatic – based on user feedback, the map style will change given the zoom level your at switching from aerial to road to Enhanced Bird’s Eye automagically. Road – will lock you into road maps. Aerial – will lock you into an orthographic aerial photo mode. Bird’s Eye – will transition you between our Enhanced Bird’s Eye experience and aerial (further from the ground). The Blue Man icon will turn on all roads where we currently have Streetside photography in available (zoom all the way out to see a broad overview of the cities available around the US).
Integrated 1-Click Directions – Bill Gates dubbed them “Party Maps” because no matter where you were coming from 1-Click Directions would show you how to get to the party. We’ve taken that concept and integrated it into the driving directions logic so that if you’re planning to drive to a specific location you can search for it and based on the results select to add it to driving directions and pick a direction (N, E, S, W) to drive from.
Route Query Parsing – Planning to drive from Seattle to San Diego? Just put “Seattle to San Diego” in the search box and you’ll get point to point driving directions. This is also available in the AJAX site, but I forgot to mention it a couple weeks ago.
Auto-Location Detection – When loading the Bing Maps in Silverlight the site will use a number of different location detection methods to determine your position and center the map in an area near you.
Weather – Weather is integrated directly into the Bing Maps experience, in order to give you instant access to the weather of where you are or where you’re searching.
Images – Bing Image Search is natively integrated into Bing Maps giving you instant access to images of a specific region you’re searching. This is a great way to visualize where you’re going by leveraging the millions of photos that have been geo-indexed by Bing.
Defined Regions Query Parsing – Bing Maps highlights known areas on the map for specific neighborhood regions. Searching for “San Diego Gaslamp,” for example will zoom you over to the Gaslamp District in downtown San Diego and highlight the area on the map.
Well, with Bird’s Eye, high resolution aerials, high fidelity, accurate (and field verified) road data plus the new addition of Streetside photography and enhanced Bird’s Eye all available in Bing Maps as map-based content (not to mention all the other great features) I think the game is afoot yet again! I’d say at the very least things in the online mapping world just got a little more interesting wouldn’t you say?
CP – Follow me on Twitter @ChrisPendleton