Google Maps Adds Helicopter View, Streamlines Design

Users who request driving directions on Google Maps will now be able to access one additional option: Helicopter view. This view allows users to get a fly-through of their route. The addition of this feature coincides with several minor design changes and a new “My Location” location finding feature.

Fly Over Your Google Maps Route

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Users who have the Google Earth plug-in installed on their computer will see a new option when they request driving directions on Google Maps. The newly added "play in 3D" button will take users on a helicopter fly-over of their route that gives a sense of the landscapes and landmarks the trip will take them to.

While the fly-over is in process, the step-by-step directions will remain visible in a column on the left, with the current leg of the voyage being highlighted. Users can quickly swap back to 2D mode from this column as well.

You can check out more details on the official feature announcement.

Google Maps Gets Minor Design Update, Adds 'My Location'

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Google Maps is also seeing some updates to its look and feel. The primary differences are an updated pin (the new one has a lighter border), more natural placement and design for the on-map controls, and more prominent navigation buttons for "Directions" and "My Places."

They’ve also added a new feature called “My Location,” which uses the GeoLocation API to find your approximate physical location and make it the starting or ending point for directions. The first time you see it, your browser will ask you to opt in, in which case the “My Location” dot on the map turns from grey to blue. Depending on the browser, users can choose to have the setting remembered, or opt in each time.

Google Maps doesn't store your physical location and “My Location” can be turned off completely through the browser. This new feature eliminates the need to type in an address for either the origin or destination each time a user searches for directions from their mobile.

These design updates are part of ongoing changes to Google Maps which started in June, took a leap forward in July, and are continuing now. The updated design, which focuses on a cleaner look, is unsurprising considering the sweeping design changes that have been happening across Google properties since the release of Google+.

A New Dynamic Look for Google

Speaking of updated designs, those who check out the original announcement linked above will note a different look on the Google LatLong blog. LatLong, like several other Google blogs, is trying out the dynamic views introduced by Blogger last week.