Google Maps Adds Helicopter View

Tuesday, October 4th, 2011

Google Maps Adds Helicopter View

Out of all the various online services provided by Google, few have seen as many major updates as Maps. From in-browser Google Earth to public transportation and Walking directions to Live Traffic, and now 3D route preview, also known as Helicopter View. Paul Yang announced this new feature of Google Maps a few days ago on LatLong, the official blog of Google Maps and Google Earth.

In truth, this isn’t so much a new feature as a combination of two existing features. By combining driving (or walking, bicycle, or public transit) directions with the Google Earth view, you can see a 3D aerial preview of your journey “as if you were in a helicopter flying above the road.” Of course, this means you’ll need the Google Earth plug-in installed.

Getting to the 3D directions feature couldn’t be easier. After entering your starting point and destination, just as you would for any driving directions, click the “3D Play” button. Maps is even kind enough to highlight the current step in the directions as it progresses so you can tell which leg of the journey you’re watching. And of course returning to 2D view is as easy as clicking the “2D Pause” button where the “3D Play” button had been.

It’s pretty cool to watch California’s coastline and mountain ranges as you fly over Highway 1. If you pause the flight, you can rotate the camera and move around just as you normally would in Google Earth mode. You might also want to pause for a few seconds at the beginning of your trip to let the more detailed images load for the full effect. Now they just need to add this feature to Maps for Android and sync it to GPS so I can watch my route by virtual helicopter while actually driving it.

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