The Next Dimension

Google has announced that they will introduce the ‘next dimension’ of Google Maps tomorrow at 12:30 pm ET.  The event comes the week before Apple will likely announce that they will start to remove Google Maps from iOS.  So Google’s looking to make Apple regret that decision.  Much analysis has gone into what this ‘next dimension’ may be, but being a Google Maps addict, I am adding my speculation to the mix.

The Next Dimension – 3D from Street View?

So the next dimension that Google Maps would have in a literal sense would be 3D.  Already, you can see “2.5d” buildings in Google Maps, but these are fairly crude gray blocks.  Leveraging technology from their Street View cars, it would be nice to supplement these gray blocks with actual Street View images.  From my experience, though, it seems that the Street View images identify too many false positive buildings, from parked trucks to signs to people.  (Take a look at this by attempting to click on what Street View thinks is a flat surface.)  So, while this would be a nice next dimension, I doubt that this is what we will see tomorrow.

3D from Aerials?

More likely than using Street View images is the use of aerials or 45-degree imagery, which allows you to see certain geographic areas with photos taken from overhead planes.  This provides much more detail than satellite view, and depending on the measurements being taken from the equipment, perhaps real-world 3D modeling would be easy to obtain?  This would also remove the weird false-positive building problem that exists with Street View.  However, this would probably introduce entirely new problems for trees and other tall objects. It would probably be fine in a highly urban environment, but I hope that the next dimension would be available everywhere in Maps, not just a few specific areas.

4D – Time?

The speculation that Google will only add a ‘timeline’ view to Maps seems too tame for me. This feature already exists in Google Earth, allowing you to view satellite images at different points in time.  A simple addition of this to Maps would hardly be event-worth, so my bet isn’t on this one either.

None of the Above

More likely in my mind is the continued melding of Google services into Maps.  Last week, we saw Google Places sunset in favor of Google+ business listings.  This week, I bet we start to see increased integration of location information into Google Maps.  I’m thinking that you will be able to click on a city and get some Wikipedia information about it.  But perhaps more importantly, see your personal connections to that city via Google+.  Who do you know who has traveled there?  Have any of your friends checked in and left good reviews at restaurants along your route to a new city?  While this probably aligns best to Google’s enterprise goals of becoming a more social, local company, this is certainly the least exciting in my book.  Google+ is a ghost town with very little engagement by my family and friends – Facebook is the place to go for that information – and will continue to be until Google (or someone else) introduces a game changer.

Am I right?  I doubt it.  But we’ll see what the folks in Mountain View have in store for us tomorrow!  Check back later in the week for thoughts on the announcement, and some of my wishlist items for the future!

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Steven Michaels

Steven Michaels specializes in PHP web applications utilizing MediaWiki, WordPress, Yii Framework and others. He is an open source contributor and leads development for both of Hollow Developers' internal projects, HollowGame and SpeechEase.

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