Map Wars: Attack of the Killer Maps @ Where 2.0

Map Wars: Attack of the Killer Maps @ Where 2.0

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This week is the Where 2.0 conference in San Jose, Ca.  It's a conference hosted by O'Reilly Publishing where all the major players in the online "map wars" come out to show off their wares.  There's a lot of competition in this space these days that makes a map freak like myself flutter.  Maybe "map wars" is not the politically correct way of describing this competition given the state of the world, but it sure sounds cool to me.

Both Microsoft and Google revealed some new features today in their mapping services... both impressive in their own right.

First up, Microsoft added Manhattan to the 3D views in Live Maps.  You can read about it and see some screen shots at TechCrunch.  There's a cool video (although a bit blurry compared to the real application) of flying around NYC here

Here's the view of midtown from where I used to live in Hoboken, NJ:

ManhattanFromHoboken

Kind of hard to see the detail from far away, but representative of what I used to see out my window a few years back.  But check out the view from the top of the Empire State Building:

ManhattanFromESB

Wow!  Now that's real!

Also at Where 2.0, Google revealed their new Street View feature today.  Live Maps has had a beta of this type of functionality for almost a year now.  Although, I admit, that beta was quite hokie. (<-- And that's coming from a Hokie!)  Google one-upped the game in street view by a long shot.  This is a very cool feature and it's amazing how they got it to work.

Here's a "street view" of the building where the Microsoft office in NYC is:

MSOfficeInNYC

It's hard to describe the way the street view feature works in Google Maps without seeing it in action yourself.  What I can tell you is that it is a very cool visual effect that makes you feel like you are there as you navigate.  However, due to the way they have stitched together the imagery to make a 360 degree view, most of the imagery is too blurry. 

One thing is for certain, features like the ones showed off today really are going to change the way we use maps in the future.  I can only imagine having these types of views integrated into my car's navigation system in the future.  Talk about never getting lost!  With wireless broadband becoming more ubiquitous, it's only a matter of time.

Here's to hoping the "map wars" continue!