On Tuesday, Google officially announced that it is going to start updating its Google Maps experience to offer a more detailed, colorful experience. What’s more, Google Maps will get even more accurate. This update will show the natural world in greater detail. With the change, you can see where Red Rock State Park in Sedona, Arizona, starts more clearly, with the old version of Google Maps on the left and the new version on the right. Google Maps will also show the desert landscape much better.
Google Maps has high-definition satellite imagery for over 98 percent of the world’s population. With a new color-mapping algorithmic technique, we’re able to take this imagery and translate it into an even more comprehensive, vibrant map of an area at global scale. Exploring a place gives you a look at its natural features—so you can easily distinguish tan, arid beaches and deserts from blue lakes, rivers, oceans and ravines. You can know at a glance how lush and green a place is with vegetation, and even see if there are snow caps on the peaks of mountaintops.
With this update, Google Maps has one of the most comprehensive views of natural features on any major map app—with availability in all 220 countries and territories that Google Maps supports. That’s coverage for over 100M square kilometers of land, or 18 billion football fields!
Google’s announcement details the advancement with Google Maps in brief. The company says the update is possible through computer vision to identify natural features. Those elements, including ice caps, forested areas, deserts, and more, are then assigned specific colors via the HSV color model. Google Maps should show heavily forested areas in dark green, and areas with shrubs in a light green, basically.
As a comparison to Apple Maps, here’s the same Red Rock State Park as pictured in Apple’s own mapping service:
You can check out other areas covered by the Google Maps update in the original announcement post.
Google says this new update for Google Maps is available now in 220 countries and territories where the service is available. However, if you don’t already see the updated visuals, it may take some time before Google has the update live for all devices out there in the wild. The rollout will take place over the course of the next week.
But wait, there’s more
There’s more coming to Google Maps as well:
While seeing natural features can help you get a feel for an area, sometimes you need more information to get around safely and efficiently. Soon, you’ll be able to see highly detailed street information that shows the accurate shape and width of a road to scale. You can also see exactly where sidewalks, crosswalks, and pedestrian islands are located–crucial information if you have accessibility needs, like wheelchair or stroller requirements. These details are particularly helpful as more people are opting to walk or take other forms of solo transportation due to the pandemic. We’ll start rolling out detailed street maps in London, New York, and San Francisco in the coming months, with plans to expand to more cities over time.
With that future update, Google Maps will show pedestrian islands, crosswalks, and sidewalks within the app. You can see what that looks like in the image below.
What do you think of this update? Apple Maps did something similar, but with a large focus on cities and towns. Should Apple do the same for the natural world, too?