Google kicks off April Fools’ Day w/ Pokemon Master job listing & mini-game in Maps

It looks like Google’s usual April Fools festivities have just kicked off as we officially roll into April 1st in Japan. Google’s first gag is the recruiting video above looking for a qualified “Pokemon Master” for the Google Maps team and comes alongside a mini-game easter egg in the Google Maps app for iOS and Android.

While the video above showing some type of augmented reality style Pokemon game integrated with Google Maps is almost certainly just for a bit of April Fools fun, an easter egg already live in the Google Maps app on iOS and Android actually lets users play a Pokemon mini-game:

As you can see in the screenshots above, small Pokemon characters are appearing scattered throughout the Google Maps app. You can tap the characters to catch them and also a view a detailed Pokedex that shows artwork, character details, and the Pokemon you still have to catch.

Those that catch all the Pokemon between now and April 2nd will go on to Google for a final challenge to crown the true Pokemon Master for the Google Maps team. To turn on the mini-game, tap the search bar in the Google Maps app followed by “Press Start.”  Read more

Google Maps desktop app adds 3D ‘Earth Tours’, real time traffic reports, & StreetView improvements

Find imagery coverage with Pegman

Google just announced a few updates rolling out to the new Google Maps desktop app today. Users will now be able to highlight StreetView imagery, user-uploaded photos, and PhotoSpheres on the map by clicking a new pegman icon in the lower right corner of their screen (pictured above). StreetView imagery will be highlighted in light blue, Photo Spheres as darker blue circles, and indoor imagery as yellow circles.

In addition, the update brings a touch of Google Earth over to the Maps desktop app with new bird’s-eye view 3D Earth Tours for all WebGL-enabled browsers.

Explore beautiful, 3D imagery of buildings and terrain for thousands of locations from above with Earth Tours available right in your browser.* Wherever you see the Earth Tour icon, you can click, sit back, and get a virtual tour from a soaring angle. Dive into Boston or circle the Alps.

Google is also rolling out a new preview UI for directions. Now, when viewing individual steps for directions you’ll see StreetView imagery on each step where available, allowing you to get a better sense of your surroundings for an upcoming turn or exit. Google also notes that it has integrated real time traffic incident reports from its Waze acquisition like it recently did in its mobile Google Maps apps.

The new Google Maps desktop app is rolling out to all that opted into the new Google Maps preview today and to everyone else in teh coming weeks. Google also just released a video preview for the new Google Maps desktop experience that shows off some of the new features in today’s update: Read more

Google Street View will now take you on a tour of a British submarine

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The HMS Ocelot, a 50-year-old British submarine has the distinct honor of being the first submersible to be offered up on Google’s street view. The Register reports the company mapped-out the control room, sleeping quarters and even some of the torpedo tubes, which are obviously out of service. There’s also a tour of the dockyard which launched the submarine and a set of 20  images of the exterior of the boat. I mean, this is a freaking submarine on Google street view, does it really get any better? Well, I suppose you might get more of a kick out of the Large Hadron Collider if you’re into that sort of thing, but for me, it’s a freaking submarine!

You can view the whole collection of images here.

Google announces Maps Engine Pro, allowing small businesses to easily visualize and map data

Google announced a mapping tool for small businesses. Dubbed “Google Maps Engine Pro,” the new software allows users to easily create maps based on any set of data they want, such as sales data, client offices, and more. Along with this new product the company announced a few additional features for the standard Maps Engine. These features include a new Android app that allows users to access their data on their mobile devices, as well as tools for importing data from older systems to the Maps Engine. These features are available to users of all versions of Maps Engine.

Google has also introduced a new account type that lets users test the features of Maps Engine for free before committing to anything. The “introductory accounts” function exactly like a standard account, but limit the number of map queries allowed each day.

Read more

Google’s 20 Percent Time – birthplace of Gmail, Google maps & Adsense – now effectively dead

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One of the cornerstones of Google’s reputation for innovation – its 20% Time scheme – is now effectively gone, according to a report by Quartz, citing anonymous Google employees.

Google’s 20% Time allowed engineers to spend the equivalent of one day a week working on a personal project without having to justify it to anyone. Gmail, Google maps, Adsense, Google Talk and many other products were born from this scheme. Adsense alone is responsible for around 25 percent of Google’s annual revenue.

Now, says the report, it is all but dead …  Read more

Google Maps update adds new Latitude button, ability to save maps offline

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Earlier this week Google rolled out an update to its Maps app with a new interface and several new features, but the update also removed a several key things, including the ability to save maps offline and the popular Latitude tracking tool. In a post on Google+ this morning, however, the Maps team announced that an update will begin rolling out to Maps users today that adds those two features back to the app.

We’ve been happy to hear so many of you enjoying the interface and features of the new Google Maps app for Android, but we know some of you are missing an easy way to access maps offline. That’s why our engineering team has been working around the clock to add a “Make this map area available offline” card below the search box for easier access. And, if you still want some #thumbercise, typing “ok maps” will work too!

With this update, we’ve also added a “Where’s Latitude?” link at the bottom of the side menu which provides more information about the future of location sharing.

The update will begin rolling out to users today, so be sure to keep an eye on the Play Store for it to hit your device. Read more