Google not only escaped criminal prosecution in Germany after its Street View cars were found to be capturing private wifi traffic, but it has now pretty much walked away scott-free as the Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information fined it just €145,000 ($190,000).
Google’s map offerings build in the human intelligence on the front end, and that’s what allows its computers to tell you the best route from San Francisco to Boston.
In an exclusive story by the Senior Editor at The Atlantic, Alexis C. Madrigal, Google for the first time gives us a look at “Ground Truth”. It is a project described by Madrigal as a secretive, complex internal map that contains data, such as “no-left-turns and freeway on-ramps, speed limits and traffic conditions,” necessary to help users navigate through Google Maps:
I was slated to meet with Gupta and the engineering ringleader on his team, former NASA engineer Michael Weiss-Malik, who’d spent his 20 percent time working on Google Mars, and Nick Volmar, an “operator” who actually massages map data.
“So you want to make a map,” Weiss-Malik tells me as we sit down in front of a massive monitor. “There are a couple of steps. You acquire data through partners. You do a bunch of engineering on that data to get it into the right format and conflate it with other sources of data, and then you do a bunch of operations, which is what this tool is about, to hand massage the data. And out the other end pops something that is higher quality than the sum of its parts.”
Describing Ground Truth to be an elaborate internal Map Maker of sorts, perhaps the most interesting aspect of the story is just how much human input goes into making the Google Maps experience accurate. In the story, Madrigal noted the Ground Truth Geo team aims to address most of the fixable problems reported by users (thousands daily) within minutes: Read more
Google announced today on the Lat Long Blog that it added even more Street View imagery to Google Maps; this time for Brazil and pre-hispanic Mexican cities. While there was already Street View imagery available for the locations, the latest additions include panoramic imagery for 70+ cities throughout Brazil including “colonial cities like Fortaleza, architecturally compelling cities like Brasilia and coastal landmarks like Recife, Natal and Salvador.”
You can even virtually travel to the west side of Brazil and visit Foz de Iguaçu, or if you’re planning an upcoming trip, preview the the area around your hotel as well as nearby shopping malls, historic monuments, restaurants and more. With so many upcoming events, like the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics, we’re excited to share the riches of Brazil’s cities not only with tourists from around the world, but also with locals who might want to visit a city, neighborhood or landmark they’ve not yet experienced.
Also included in today’s update is 30 Mesoamerican archaeological areas in Mexico, including the 1,100-year-old Kukulkan’s Temple pyramid, and other sites such as Teotihuacan, Chichen Itza, and Tulum.
Google just revealed a backpack-like Street View capture device called “Trekker” that snaps images in areas impossible to navigate by vehicle (above).
“It’s 40 pounds and includes two batteries that’ll last you all day. It’s Android-powered…. We intend to take it to National Parks, the Grand Canyon, castles, etc.,”explained Google’s Engineering Director of Street View Luc Vincent at the “Next Dimension“ Google Maps event in San Francisco.
The director further said street level data “could be” useful for users, and then he showed off an original Street View van (below). It is a Chevy Astro and definitely does not compare to newer Street View cars.
It is worth mentioning that Google announced it drove over 5 million unique miles to collect 20 petabytes of imagery for Street View.
Google just updated its Maps for Android app to version 6.7 by adding a number of notable new features like integration of Google offers, indoor walking directions, and new 360-degree Street View-like panoramic views for the insides of certain buildings.
As for Google Offers integration, Google will launch the feature only in the United States and provide access to the deals through a new “Offers” option within the app’s “Maps” drop-down menu. The app will also let you opt-in to receive notifications for nearby deals. The feature is limited to the Android app, but we are likely to see Offers integration across all Google Maps products in the near future.
Another new feature rolling out to both U.S. and Japanese users is the ability to get indoor walking directions, but this is in addition to the indoor floor plans launched earlier this year in version 6.0 and will only rollout to select buildings initially.
Taking advantage of its Street View technology, Google is introducing 360-degree panoramic views in version 6.7. To access the feature, Google noted to keep an eye out for the “‘See Inside’ section on the Place page of select businesses.”
Google Maps 6.7 for Android is already available to download from Google Play here.
Wikipedia updated its Android and iOS apps today, but the noteworthy feature is that the online encyclopedia-like website dumped Google Maps for OpenStreetMap, which marks a growing trend for technology firms preferring an alternative mapping solution.
The company just announced its Android counterpart witnessed 2.25 million installs in less than two months since its birth, while netting over 23 million Wikipedia page views per month. Despite the success with Google’s mobile OS, Wikipedia updated its apps with Open StreetMap data in favor of the service’s “nearby view” feature.
Wikipedia further explained the reasoning behind the switch:
Previous versions of our application used Google Maps for the nearby view. This has now been replaced with OpenStreetMaps – an open and free source of Map Data that has been referred to as ‘Wikipedia for Maps.’ This closely aligns with our goal of making knowledge available in a free and open manner to everyone. This also means we no longer have to use proprietary Google APIs in our code, which helps it run on the millions of cheap Android handsets that are purely open source and do not have the proprietary Google applications. OpenStreetMaps is used in both iOS and Android, thanks to the amazing Leaflet.js library. We are currently using Mapquest’s map tiles for our application, but plan on switching to our own tile servers in the near future.
In the last couple of months alone, both Apple and Foursquare also shifted to OpenStreetMap. It is worth mentioning that Yahoo implemented OpenStreetMap data within Flickr in 2009 for a plethora of worldwide cities, such as Baghdad, Beijing, Kabul, Santiago, Sydney, and Tokyo.