Tech giants Google and Microsoft have both announced the release of major upgrades to their online mapping services.
Google has announced that over the coming weeks, a redesigned version of Google Maps will begin rolling out to mobile and desktop PC users.
The redesigned software has been in beta testing since May, with the online services giant now confident enough to introduce a broader rollout.
In a statement, Google Maps vice president Brian McClendon highlights smarter search results, improved directions and richer imagery as key new features in the upgrade.
“Simply search for ‘coffee’ in your neighborhood, and you’ll be able to see results and snippets right on the map. When you click on a cafe, the map will suggest related results that you may not have known about.
“Car? Bike? Train? Find the most efficient route for you, with your best options laid out on the map, including the time and distance for each route. And with the new real-time traffic reports and Street View previews, you’ll become a commuting ninja.
“Rich imagery takes you to notable landmarks, sends you flying above mountains in 3D, and gives you a sneak peek of businesses you plan to visit. The new ‘carousel’ at the bottom of the map makes all this imagery easy to access, so you can explore the world with a click.”
Google also warns that, with any website redesign, there are risks of unforeseen bugs in the code creeping through.
For its part, Microsoft has announced that it has begun the process of mapping shantytowns and favelas in emerging markets as part of an upgrade to its Bing Maps service.
Bing senior director Stefan Weitz says the upgrade will help “accelerate the untapped potential in these communities”.
“In places like Johannesburg and Rio, millions of people live in shantytowns and favelas – homes that literally don’t show up on the map. Less than one percent of these major urban settlements have been mapped.
“A Microsoft team in Brazil has begun a project to start building out this mapping infrastructure in the favelas. The team is seeking to build the necessary infrastructure to enable the many parties necessary for the communities to fully participate in the digital town square in ways that many of us in the developed online world take for granted.”