Google StreetView has a new competitor. Weeks after Google released StreetView to the public, which allows users to move a character around on a map and see things from his virtual perspective, MapJack.com has launched an identical service for the city of San Francisco.
"Most people are intimidated by maps – they’re confusing and complicated, especially when you need instant information," said MapJack CTO Bjorn Moren, in a statement. "We’ve tried to make it easier for travelers to plan their trips to the city by letting them actually look at their destinations and what’s around them."
Like StreetView, MapJack offers users a top-down view and a draggable character to navigate. Users can also use arrows in the first-person perspective to walk forward, backward, look side to side, and turn around. Unlike StreetView, MapJack does not build a smooth-scrolling panorama at every point in the city. Instead, each view is a static image, but as a trade-off, the image quality is clearly better. Views look much closer to what could be accomplished with a consumer-level digital camera, while Google’s views look closer to webcam quality.
"We developed an array of proprietary electronics, hardware and software tools that enable us to capture an entire city’s streets with relative ease and excellent image quality,” Moren said. “Moreover, our coverage area doesn’t stop street-side; we also include walking areas such as Pier39.”
MapJack is still in beta form, but in the future it could represent a challenge to Google if it manages to expand to other cities and further refine its interface.