New Google Earth Launches

A new version of Google Earth launched today. Unlike previous versions, the desktop version runs in a web browser rather than a standalone app. Also unlike previous versions, it’s no longer cross-platform: for now at least, the desktop version only runs in Chrome, and the mobile app is Android-only.

Frank Taylor has been covering the new release at the venerable Google Earth Blog and has a first review.

For my part, I’ve poked around in it in Chrome a bit and I found it fairly responsive and easy to use. If it runs this well in the browser I can see how a standalone app would be redundant; this is a better delivery method. I would much prefer it, though, if it also ran on platforms that didn’t belong to Google.

Update, 21 April: Coverage from AFP and Geoawesomeness focuses on the features, which I gave short shrift to above.

Ms. Pac-Maps

Google tends to release wacky things around April 1st, as well as some more serious things (like Gmail). Ms. Pac-Maps is one of the former, and the latest strange thing to be added to Google Maps around this time. In the same vein as the Google Maps Pac-Man feature from 2015, it enables you to play Ms. Pac-Man on the road grid in Google Maps, and runs on the most recent Android and iOS apps as well as on the desktop until April 4th. [The Verge]

How the Transit App Got Its Curves

transit-appThe makers of the Transit app (iPhone, Androidlike to point out that whereas Apple’s transit maps are beautiful but basically hand-drawn and added manually and slowly, and Google’s maps are algorithmically generated but look terrible, their maps are algorithmically generated but look smooth and neat. A technical post by their backend developer explains in ridiculous detail how they managed to auto-generate their smooth, curved transit network maps.

Greater London A-Z Street Map

greater-azIt shouldn’t surprise me that there’s a mobile version of the London A-Z Street Atlas. There are, in fact, several, the most recent of which is the Greater London A-Z Street Map, which covers some 3,743 km2 of territory and stores all its maps—the same maps you’d get in the paper edition—on the device. (Which makes it a fairly significant download: 603 MB on iOS, 382 MB on Android.) The iOS version costs £5 and is compatible with both the iPhone and iPad. The Android version is available on Google Play and costs about the same.

Google Maps Updates

Recent Google Maps updates include driving mode, an Android-only navigation mode that, as Android Police describes it, “uses your location history and web searches to make assumptions about where you’re going and give traffic updates and ETAs as you travel” [via]. Also this week, the world’s largest model railway, Hamburg’s Minatur Wunderland, was added to Street View. Quite engrossing if you’re into model trains.