For most uses, Google Maps is a flat, 2D app, and if your device can handle more graphics and a bit more data, you can fire up the Google Earth 3D data set and get 3D buildings. At Google I/O Google has announced a new level that turns the graphics slider way, way up on Google Maps: Immersive View. When exploring an area in Google Maps, the company says Immersive View will make it “feel like you’re right there before you ever set foot inside.”
The video for this feature is wild. It basically turns Google Maps into a 3D version of SimCity with AAA video game graphics. There are simulated cars that drive through the roads, and birds fly through the sky. Clouds pass overhead and cast shadows on the world. The weather is simulated, and water has realistic reflections that change with the camera. London even has an animated Ferris wheel that spins around.
Google can’t possibly be tracking things like the individual positions of birds (yet!), but a lot of this is real data. The cars represent the current traffic levels on a given street. The weather represents the actual weather, even for historical data. The sun moves in real time with the time of day.
Another part of the video shows flying into a business that also has a whole 3D layout. All of this is possible thanks to combining the massive data sets from Google Maps, Google Earth, and Street View, but even then, this level of fidelity will be very limited by the initial data sets. Google says that at first, Immersive View will “start… rolling out in Los Angeles, London, New York, San Francisco, and Tokyo later this year with more cities coming soon.”
The company says that “Immersive view will work on just about any phone and device,” but just like the 3D building mode, this will be an optional toggle.