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Live Maps gets a major upgrade

Latest version of Microsoft's online mapping service, Live Maps, includes exporting to GPS devices, improved 3D imagery, and MapCruncher integration.

Microsoft's Live Maps team just dropped a huge new version of its service in addition to the traffic updates from earlier Thursday.

Live Maps now offers a wealth of new features, including exporting to GPS devices, improved 3D imagery, and one of my personal favorites, MapCruncher integration.

Las Vegas hotels, as seen in Live Maps 3D

Microsoft is rolling out its new "version 2" 3D imagery in four cities (Las Vegas, Denver, Dallas, and Phoenix) for now, with more to come later. The rest of us will have to wait and look on in envy. 3D improvements include higher-resolution textures, rendered trees, and buildings reaching farther out of the city cores and into the suburbs.

Another thing for GPS owners to get excited about here is that you can now export map collections in three different GPS-compatible formats (KML, GPX, and GeoRSS). Adoption of these standards also means that you can view these exported collections in any compatible application, such as Google Earth.

A side-by-side comparison of Giants Stadium with and without the seating chart overlay. VE/Live Maps Blog

The feature in this release that has me really excited is MapCruncher integration. MapCruncher basically enables you to apply layers on top of the map that you are looking at.

The example that the Virtual Earth team used (seen above) is overlaying a seating chart onto Giants Stadium. This could also be used in cases like overlaying a campus map, labeling buildings on top of a university or corporation. I think that this has really great potential in providing a new level of information for maps that you are viewing.

The Live Maps team is really together right now. It is offering a product that, in my opinion, is clearly superior to Google Maps. Live Maps is the best browser-based map experience out there today.

Thanks to Kip over at my other blog, LiveSide, for alerting me to this new release. The full feature list:

  • Export your collection to your navigation/GPS device
  • Improved 3D cities
  • 3D modeling with 3DVIA
  • Labels for bird's-eye imagery
  • 1-Click directions (party maps!)
  • MapCruncher integration
  • Enhanced explore of map content from across the Web, contributed by other people
  • Neighborhood subscribe via GeoRSS
  • Tour enhancements, including hi-definition movies
  • Directions and traffic enhancements
  • Improved display of KML files, including Google MyMaps links