Google goes gaga over 3D maps

A new perspective for maps

Google is cueing up to launch its Google Earth, which provides three-dimensional images of select cities.

Beta versions of the mapping software are making the rounds on blogs, as well as receiving a preview last month as part of the company's Google Factory Tour webcast.

Google Earth, while providing perspective to the height of buildings and those nearby, gives texture to the competitive landscape that includes Microsoft's MSN and Yahoo.

The new features will allow users to search for a location and get an aerial view, before drilling down to 3D images of buildings in select cities and various roads, schools and gas stations nearby. The maps will also allow users to access driving directions, as well as drawing tools.

The addition of 3D maps builds on Google's earlier efforts this year to beef up its visual display for users. Last April, the company added satellite images to its maps. And that was not lost on competitors, such as Microsoft, which last month rolled out its satellite maps, MSN Virtual Earth.