Roam the Arabian desert with Street View

Tuesday, October 7, 2014 at 11:00 PM

Imagine sitting atop a camel looking across a vast expanse of desert dunes. A glimmer of green flashes in the distance. It could be a mirage or a bountiful oasis just awaiting your discovery. Now with Google Maps, you can see for yourself and journey across the sands of the Liwa Desert, one of the most breathtaking landscapes in the world.

On your virtual trip through the desert, you’ll find sand dunes that reach an astounding height of 25-40 meters. These rolling sandy hills were home to early settlers back in the Late Stone Age, making Liwa one of the oldest sites in the United Arab Emirates.

Some of the richest history in this desert lies in the Liwa Oasis—the largest oasis in the Arabian peninsula. Many people across the UAE can trace their origins to the first tribes that settled there and established the region as a trade center. The oasis is also home to date farms, whose trees and fruit are important cultural symbols—the trunks of the palms were used to weave the walls of Bedouin tents, baskets and more, while the fruit was a treasured treat for the locals. Now, the oasis is a sought out location for tourists around the world and those who live in the area.

To bring this stunning desert to Street View, we fashioned the Trekker to rest on a camel, which gathered imagery as it walked. Using camels for the collection allowed us to collect authentic imagery and minimize our disruption of this fragile environment.

Street View Trekker mounted on a camel

We hope this collection gives you a glimpse of what it may be like to travel the desert as caravan merchants have for the past 3000 years. Should you make the journey here in person, who knows—you may meet some new friends. To see more, visit our Street View gallery.

Make your own way with the new My Maps

Tuesday, September 16, 2014 at 8:30 AM

As temperatures cool down, you might be searching for your next warm vacation spot. Starting today, you can get a little inspiration by going to Google Maps Gallery and browsing publicly shared custom maps of all types. Just look up sunny “Los Angeles” to find the best hiking trails, street art, breweries and more to do in La-La Land. And, for those of you who are actually looking forward to the winter, see what ski options others have recommended, with the maps they created of their favorite slopes and resorts.

An insider’s take on the best views and paths of Cahuenga Peak, Los Angeles—including a walk to the Hollywood sign!

Once you’re done daydreaming, plan out your own trip with the new My Maps (previously Google Maps Engine Lite), adding images, descriptions, custom icons, and place details along the way. Make sure to download the My Maps Android app so you can also view your map or make a change on the go, or check out others’ maps while you’re on your way. Did you plot out the perfect vacation? Share it publicly so others can get inspired, too—or if you prefer, keep your secret spots safe by setting your map to private or by sharing with a lucky few.

With these tools for exploration in hand, you can find and create maps for anything you’re interested in—like a collection of Sherlock Holmes’ famous haunts, or global tributes to Nelson Mandela. The possibilities are pretty much endless—students have photographed and mapped a city’s public art installments, authors have laid out their stories’ locations on the map, and activists have plotted out shelters and distribution centers during emergency situations.

Find Nelson Mandela tributes, speeches and more in Maps Gallery

If you’ve already been creating custom maps with classic My Maps, today you can upgrade all your content to the new My Maps, and enjoy these new options. You can import spreadsheets, easily include images and YouTube videos, and organize your locations and routes however you want.

By the end of this year, all maps created in classic Google Maps will automatically upgrade to the new My Maps, but to get started right away, open up the new My Maps and “Upgrade now,” then check out the tour—found in the settings menu—for tips on creating your own custom content.

Where will your map take you?

Posted by Heather Folsom, Product Manager, My Maps

Take your dream trip to Mexico with Google Maps

Monday, September 15, 2014 at 4:00 AM

The famed author Gabriel García Márquez once said: "In Mexico, surrealism runs through the streets. Surrealism comes from the reality of Latin America.” So today, we invite you to embark on a dreamlike journey of more than 60 new sites that take you through Mexico’s culture and geography with Street View. These are places where ancient civilizations merge with modern-day structures and lush jungles, and where remote deserts and beaches stretch neverending towards the horizon.

No, your eyes aren’t playing tricks on you; the magic is real in places like Holbox, where big resorts and tourist traps seem to be a world away. You can leave your worries behind and make new friends while snorkeling the clear, blue waters.

Mexico has a rich heritage of religion and tradition. Explore the country’s sacred sites, like the Catedral de Merida, one of the oldest cathedrals in North America, and the remains of the Museo Ex Convento de Tepoztlán, which was first built for the Dominican friars in 1555.

As we approach the end of our virtual tour, it’s a good time to take a look at the iconic monumental clock in Pachuca, Hidalgo. Close to Mexico City, this former mining town witnessed the country’s history from the pre-Hispanic empire to today’s modern republic.

This imagery from across Mexico is the latest of our Street View Collections, in which we capture the world’s natural, cultural and historic legacy for you to explore. Now pack your virtual sandalias, grab your digital sunglasses, and discover Mexico’s history with Street View on Google Maps!

Walk like an Egyptian with Street View in Google Maps

Wednesday, September 10, 2014 at 2:00 AM

Candlelight flickering on a stone wall covered in hieroglyphs. A proud queen brought low by the bite of a snake. Reeds rustling along a river, waiting to be turned into papyrus, or maybe a basket. The civilization of ancient Egypt stood for thousands of years and left behind a rich legacy of architecture, art, medicine, politics, culture and more. Today, it looms large in our imagination as the home of Cleopatra, Ptolemy, Tutankhamun, people who worshipped cats as gods and buried their embalmed dead in tombs filled with treasures and sustenance for the afterlife.

Now the Egypt of your imagination can be brought to life with new Street View imagery in Google Maps, and you can take a virtual walk among the stunning monuments and rich history of this ancient civilization.

Start where most tourists do: at the Pyramids of Giza, which rise from the vast expanse of the Sahara like man-made mountains. Just kilometers from the bustling, modern city of Cairo, the Pyramids have stood for nearly 5,000 years, a testament to the ingenuity and ambition of the ancient Egyptian people.

The Giza Necropolis is one of the most famous archaeological sites in the world, and is home to the last standing wonder of the ancient world: the Great Pyramid. Built as a tomb and a symbol of eternity for the Pharoah Khufu, it stands 139 meters high (the height of the world’s highest roller coaster!) and was the tallest man-made structure on Earth for 3,800 years. Look beyond it to the west, and you’ll see the pyramids of Khafre and Menkaure, built by Khufu's son and grandson.

Now turn east to the Great Sphinx, the oldest and largest known monumental sculpture in the world. With the body of a lion and the head of a human, it measures a grand 73 meters long and 20 meters high. Literally translating to “Father of Dread,” this mythical creature is believed to resemble Pharaoh Khafre, who was the ruler at the time of construction.

In addition to the Giza Necropolis, you can explore The Pyramid of Djoser, the ancient site of the world’s very first Pyramid designed by the great Egyptian Architect Imhotep in the ancient burial ground of Saqqara.

Other sites you can check out on your virtual tour include: Abu Mena, one of the oldest sites of Christianity in Egypt—the church, baptistry, basilicas and monasteries; the Hanging Church, one of the oldest Coptic Churches in the world; the Cairo Citadel, a medieval Islamic fortification and historic site; and the Citadel of Qaitbay, a 15th-century defensive fortress on the Mediterranean coast.

If wandering through the imagery of these historical sites has piqued your interest in Egyptology, head over to the Google Cultural Institute, where you can explore the treasures of ancient Egypt through a series of drawings, historic photographs and artifacts from the famed sites.

The Pyramids of Giza have survived nearly five millennia and are the planet’s oldest man-made wonder. Now their legacy—and the legacy of many other sites of ancient Egyptian culture—are preserved in a new way with panoramic and immersive Street View imagery. We hope you’ll take a moment to step back in time and explore what was once known as the Gift of the Nile.

Making of Maps: Ground Truth glue

Tuesday, September 9, 2014 at 9:00 AM

The final post in our Making of Maps series shows you how Ground Truth brings all the pieces of Google Maps together. Catch up on posts 1, 2, & 3 for more info! — Ed.

Henman Hill or Murray Mound? For years, British tennis fans have argued over the proper name for this hill near Wimbledon. Recently, this quirky debate over naming rights made its way to Google Maps, as people used our Map Maker tool to wrestle over the knoll’s identity. Never fear, tennis fans: whichever name you prefer, you’ll be sent to the right location when you look it up on Google Maps—let’s call it deuce.

Making sure you get to the right place, no matter what name you know it by, is just the sort of thing our Ground Truth team handles every day. Ground Truth’s aim is to keep Google Maps as up to date and accurate as possible, whether that means considering user reports from Map Maker and Report a Problem or proactively looking for new changes ourselves. Every day we start by scoping out what’s happening in the world—and by using algorithms and a little elbow grease, we can identify what roads will close for Labor Day, what housing developments are opening in Texas, and which street names are changing in Denmark (note: there are a lot of them). Ground Truth gives us the ability to use all this information to shape the map—so we can include colloquial street names, newly opened businesses, and even indoor floor plans.

All the streets in Sondergarden, Denmark were renamed this year as part of a country-wide initiative to make addresses easier to understand

Another way Ground Truth keeps Google Maps accurate is through imagery; and if a picture is worth a thousand words, you can imagine how useful satellite, aerial, and Street View imagery imagery can be. With a bird’s-eye view, we can trace the roads running through a town or identify bodies of water and park boundaries throughout a region. (One of my favorite projects is using satellite images to add golf courses to the map, including green spaces, trails, and each hole on the course.)

Satellite and aerial images are used to trace roads, bodies of water, and more (St. Petersburg, Russia)

With Street View, we can also add the granular detail needed to give you good directions. Intersections become easy to navigate because we can tell which direction each lane will take you; points of interest are easy to find because we can add information that can only be seen from the street, like the name of a restaurant or building address. Combine this with the fact that our Street View cars are designed to pinpoint exactly where each photo was taken, and the map starts to look like a mirror of the real world. 

Street View images can help pinpoint businesses and determine lane directions (Brașov, Romania)

Ground Truth takes information from thousands of sources—governments, imagery, organizations, individuals—and makes it into one cohesive map. But the best part of putting together this giant puzzle is how it helps people every day. It can save you time, empower you to get things done, and give you the opportunity to travel and explore without worry. Reaching our 50th Ground Truth country was an important moment for this project, but it’s far from the end. As long as the world keeps changing, we’ll keep mapping.