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Microsoft unveils Bing Maps Beta


03 December 2009

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Microsoft Corp has launched an enhanced and more developed version of map search with better viewing and application gallery. Bing's Streetside and Silverlight application along with travel webcams and Twitter maps will enable users to have a virtual experience of any street and access location-related content of the area.

Microsoft (NSDQ:MSFT) continues to upgrade its search engine with the launch of Bing Maps Beta, offering users a slew of minor upgrades that include enhanced street viewing and multiple application overlays, designed to go toe-to-toe with its biggest search competitor, Google (NSDQ:GOOG).

bing-maps.jpg
Image credits: Earthware.co.UK/ Microsoft Bing Maps

For all intents and purposes, Bing Maps Beta, which went live Wednesday, is uncannily similar to Google Maps, but distinguishes itself with a few innovative tweaks.

For one, there's Bing's Streetside, paralleling Google's Street View feature, which allows users to take a virtual walk through any city street with a 360 degree panorama of the surrounding buildings and landmarks.

Both Bing's and Google's applications are almost identical. But those taking a stroll via Bing Streetside will have the ability to move with a special "light speed" feature that blurs the passing scenery, as well as zoom in and out on specific locations. Users will also have access to vector information drawn into the images illustrating street direction and street names hovering above the streets.

Specifically, Bing relies on Microsoft's Photosynth technology, an application that integrates numerous photos into a 3-D montage that gives users the sense that they're walking into their images. Bing users can then rotate the comprehensive image to view details from various three dimensional vantages.

Bing's Streetside is coupled with its new Enhanced Bird's Eye feature, which gives the user an aerial view of the chosen location. Enhanced Bird's Eye is automatically adjusted based on whether the user is viewing an urban landscape or a rural one.

Bing also comes with a new Applications Gallery, a catalogue designed to streamline searches and bookmark favourite applications built within Bing Maps. Users can peruse applications or local content sources associated with cities and a few specific neighbourhoods on Bing Maps, or search map-based news articles.

Additionally, the Application Gallery provides the user with a series of map overlays, allowing them to perform multiple searches by adding different content layers to the map at once, including tweets, local blogs, business listings and Photosynth, enabling users to add various applications to their maps at their discretion.

One drawback, however, is that Bing Streetside doesn't appear to be nearly as comprehensive as Google Streetview. And, of course, in order to take advantage of Bing's new features, users will be required to install Microsoft Silverlight .

Exclusive web applications

According to the Bing Community announcement, the application gallery will give users the opportunity to develop “geospatially rich data visualisation applications.”

Further, users can seek out applications such as Travel Webcams and Twitter Maps, which uses Twitter’s newly released geolocation tool to map their geographic location as they tweet - even from the Streetside mode. The Bing Maps Beta also offers customisation options.

Microsoft informs that the enhanced version of the Bing Maps has been created after a year long experiments in Microsoft Research, incubation labs and product groups.

Stefan Weitz, Bing director exclaimed that the Bing Maps innovation is an indicator of Microsoft thinking “beyond the 10 blue links” and about what people are really trying to do with search and mapping engines. The launch is the first big refresh of the technology behind Bing Maps in years.

 
Source : Channel Web

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