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Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Google Earth version 4 and high-res imagery in Google Maps!

Google Earth version 4 was launched today. It is a simultaneous release for PC, Mac and Linux platforms that includes more detailed imagery, more coverage, integration with SketchUp, and other cool features. For more details, read the announcement on the Official Google Blog.


Besides these updates, some nice features are coming to Google Maps too. You can now use KML files in Google Maps, you can use the Google Geocoder to geocode addresses in U.S., Canada, Japan, France, Italy, Germany and Spain, and there's Google Maps for Enterprise, a commercial service that allows businesses to map customers, track shipments, or view other data in a geographical context.


Example of a high-res aerial map tileGoogle has also announced they will soon add more high-res images to Google Maps, so I thought I'd give it a try and see what's new with Maps. To my surprise, some high-res images are already available, they are just not integrated with the Maps interface. To give you a feel of what's coming next, you can do the following. Search for a place on Google Maps, then switch to satellite mode and zoom in to the max. The tile image in the center of the map will be retrieved from an address like:
http://kh3.google.com/kh?n=404&v=6&t=tqstqrqrrqrtsssssstt.
(I searched for "new york"). I'm not going to detail how the URL is constructed from the latitude & longitude coordinates (I'm saving it for another post), but you can easily see that each letter added to the URL (one of q, r, s or t) zooms in once. So... what happens if you add a letter, say 'r', to the above URL? You are pointed to http://kh3.google.com/kh?n=404&v=6&t=tqstqrqrrqrtssssssttr, which contains a higher-res detail of the top-right part of the previous image! That's a new zoom level, and I expect to see it soon in Google Maps. Until then, the latest version of Mobile GMaps already supports this high-res imagery - see the announcement.

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