Virtual Earth Team Launches Street-Side Drive-by

The Virtual Earth team is pleased to launch a preview of a new feature we have been working on – interactive Street-side browsing. You can try it out at Street-side imagery allows you to drive around a city looking at the world around you as if you were in a car. But unlike the real world, you can stop your car anywhere you like and rotate your view around 360degrees. Currently we have street-side imagery for San Francisco and Seattle online, and we are planning to have many more cities added when we formally integrate this feature into Windows Live Local this summer.

One of the most interesting features is to put you in ‘Street’ view map style. In this mode, all of the street-side images are pasted flat on the map to give you a very unique overview of an area. It takes some getting used to, but once you adjust to it you’ll find it provides a very compelling companion view for our Hybrid maps. Street view helps you orient yourself quickly in an area, while the street side views then show more detail presented as you would see it in the real-world.

This technology preview is just that – a means for us to get a feature we are working on in your hands to play with and provide feedback on, before it is ready for prime time integration into the Windows Live Local site. That’s why we chose to put this up in the Live local technology preview site. There are a number of User Interface challenges with any new navigation model and getting input from users is critical to refining the UI interactions before launch. The Virtual Earth team is proud to be the first application featured at Live Labs, allowing us to get this proof of concept out quickly – We went from concept to launch in just a few short weeks, thanks largely to the dedication of our engineering team and cooperation with the Live Labs organization. Live Labs is a partnership between MSN and Microsoft Research headed by Gary Flake whose mission is to help fast-track technology from research to user’s hands, so it was a natural fit to partner with them to get this inaugural application out Via Live Labs.

Try the application out and let us know what you think. How could navigation be improved? What cities would you like to have added? Is it easy to stay oriented or do you ‘get lost’ in the imagery? How could Navigation be improved?

“From Concept to launch in a few short weeks”. As crazy as that sounds, its true. Jay Nanduri , Brad Snow, Chandu Thota, Eyal Ofek, Rick Welsh and myself, along with immeasurable support from the rest of the Virtual Earth team and our Ops crew put in some late night dev sessions to get this out. Channel 9 came over to talk to us about the process and application, so be sure to watch the video to get the word firsthand.

Sean Rowe
Program Manager, Virtual Earth

 Update: There are some tips and screenshots over on the VE blog. More coming soon!