Users looking at Google Maps will now be able to easily distinguish between forest and floodplain, and desert and snowfield as it is set to get a visual overhaul worldwide.
A new set of maps will also be rolled out in major cities, starting with London, New York City and San Francisco, in addition to the changes to natural environments. These new maps will be able to represent the built-up environment more accurately and thus help with navigation for pedestrians and cyclists.
“Google Maps has high-definition satellite imagery for over 98% of the world’s population,” said Sujoy Banerjee, a product manager for the app. “With a new colour-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,” he said.
Algorithmic analysis of satellite imagery will form the basis of the new details in which the algorithm will try to automatically tell the difference and distinguish the nature of the environment. Then it will add new color on to the map so that users re able to visually distinguish the differences in landscapes.
The automatic colouring technology will allow for different features to be emphasised according to need instead of following a predefined key, as with a paper map. For example, while the level of tree cover will determine the a darker shade of green in Iceland, the same colour will instead be used to distinguish the borders of Mt Rainer national park in Washington State.
Google says that these new changes are set to be launched “starting this week”.
More detailed maps for selected urban areas, starting with London, New York City and San Francisco, is also set to be rolled out by Google on Google Maps in addition to the newly detailed terrain, the company said.
Visual representations of features such as pavements, road widths and pedestrian crossings and islands would be included in those updates.
That is “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”, said Banerjee.
The mapping service of Google’s rival Apple is also in the process of getting an overhaul as the iPhone maker is set to roll out a Street View-like feature that has been named “look around” while also enhancing the detail of rural and urban areas.
After being launched in Japan, the first non-US deployment, earlier this year, the UK, Ireland and Canada are the places where Apple plans to launch its refreshed maps this autumn. Apple maps were first launched in 2018 in California’s Bay Area.
(Adapted from TheGuardian.com)