20 Nov 2011, 11:56AM
I am continuously impressed with Google maps. It was a game changer when it first came out and it continues to impress with every new feature it brings out, the maps API's, street view, etc, etc. Its not that there's anything that complicated about it. Its the fact that someone ignored the scale of the project and said its doable, lets do it. E.g. who would have thought of driving down every street in the world (well for some countries at least) and taking 360 degree photos to stitch together into street view. If say someone at Microsoft had suggested it, they would have said too much effort, don't be silly. Now they feel forced to replicate Google at great cost so that Google doesn't get a monopoly in a given area. The difference lies at that point where someone decides its too much effort or someone says, stuff the effort (and cost), lets do it anyway as it will be cool.
I love street view, its great to be able to show someone directions with actual photos of the street (people are primarily visual people and visual directions stick so much better than verbal), also to check out friends houses from the road side, to be nosy in general or just to view suburbs you're not likely to ever go to.
But as usual we can look at whats done and go wow, but we should really be looking at whats next. Given Google's track record of ignoring the scale or cost of doing something, what are they likely to do next?
Well they've already started adding in line drawings of buildings, 3D representations overlaid on the map in pseudo-3D, we can envisage a full 3D map of our cities and perhaps even a 3D geography as well (e.g. Google Earth via the browser).
Anyway for my 2 cents worth, heres one thing I think they could do. With Street View they have a wealth of 360 degree images at numerous points down streets. This gives not only different perspects of [everything] from a given point but also a point down the road. Now there is already software to build up a 3D model of a building from photos taken all around it as well as Microsofts (and others) stitching together photos from different peoples digital cameras to build a 3D, zoomable representation. So perhaps we could put all this together to build a true 3D model of Street View so you can go "off map" and move around a little off the street. You could automatically build 3D models of trees, cars, houses, etc from your set of flat images and map textures to them. It would not give an ideal model (there will be lots of inconsistencies in it) but it would be better than Street View (which is already awesome). Just a thought for the morning...
It also needs to be fast enough (and provide an API for) playing games. Street View games would be awesome, running around your city blasting aliens. Great stuff...