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Google Maps gets an overhaul – more colors, more accuracy

Shortly after announcing that it is improving Google Maps in Apple CarPlay and on the Apple Watch, Google Maps has gone for a complete design overhaul by rolling out new visual improvements that bring even more detail and granularity to the map. This has been made possible by applying new color-mapping algorithmic technique on the satellite imagery it possesses on a global scale.

The new maps make it easier to understand what an area looks like — whether you’re exploring virtually or planning a visit. Available in all 220 countries and territories that Google Maps supports, amounting to a coverage for over 100 million sq km, the update will be visible from this week across landscape – from biggest metropolitan areas to small, rural towns.

ALSO READ: Six maps show the effects of COVID-19 in US

Colors add to the accuracy

“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,” according to Sujoy Banerjee, Product Manager, Google Maps.

Before and after imagery of Iceland

For instance, Iceland’s rich landscape is now much easier to visualize in the new version. While the old version (left) was mostly white with some greenish patches, one can now see the varying densities of greenery throughout the country and more easily spot Vatnajökull — the largest ice cap in Iceland, which is now depicted in white.

Google Maps overhaul
Before and after imagery of Croatia

Similarly, one can clearly make out the beaches and greenery that line Croatia’s coast and nearby islands, like Hvar in the new version.

ALSO READ: The importance of maps in the times of crisis

Street details for cities

Google has also said it is adding more detailed street information for selected urban areas, starting with London, New York City and San Francisco, which will show the accurate shape and width of a road to scale to help users get around in a particular place. A user will be able to see the exact location of sidewalks, crosswalks, and pedestrian islands, which are crucial for wheelchair users or those with strollers.

Google Maps overhaul
View crosswalks, sidewalks, and pedestrian islands right from Google Maps. You can also see the shape and width of roads.

“These details are particularly helpful as more people are opting to walk or take other forms of solo transportation due to the pandemic,” Banerjee adds. The detailed street maps will be rolled out in in the coming months, with plans to expand to more cities over time.  

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