Google’s Street View app has always been, if you think about it, a bit mind-blowing (that’s why we put Stephen Chau on our list of the 100 Most Creative People). But amazing–and free!–as it is, the app has never been very easy to use. But now it’s been souped-up, and could pass as a sci-fi movie special effect.
Street View used to suffer from an excessive click problem: It worked perfectly, but to navigate around took far too many clicks to make the experience a totally seamless one. So Google’s developers have been doing lots of background work on the programming, and have just introduced Smart Navigation to alleviate that problem. Check it out in the video.
Maybe I should write “totally revolutionize the interface” instead of “alleviate that problem.” The tweak has turned what was a pretty pedestrian (pun intended) experience into a dynamic, graphically pleasing one.
Google’s trick is to map a rough 3-D model of what the scene is like onto the image, and adjust the visible cursor accordingly. That means when you double-click to a point further along the street, Street View knows exactly where you want to zoom to. But since that virtual model also has the magical 3-D label, it means you can even zoom to look at details of buildings around the view. As the video shows, if you’re under a bridge and want to hop up onto its roadway deck, you can do that too–it just takes a click. And it’s all done with a slick blurred video effect that adds to what Google’s dev team describes as “superhuman” navigation powers.
Bring this to the iPhone, G1 and Pre, chaps at Google, and you’d really revolutionize how people navigate in cities.