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See how Google Maps is using color to add even more detail

Google Maps is getting even better with the greater use of color to depict additional geographical details in natural features.

Google Maps product manager Sujoy Banerjee said the visual improvement will bring “even more detail and granularity to the map, making it easier to understand what an area looks like whether you’re exploring virtually or planning a visit.”

Banerjee explained that the enhanced level of detail has been made possible by applying a new color-mapping algorithmic technique to its current data to create “an even more comprehensive, vibrant map of an area at global scale.”

It means that from this week, when looking at a location on Google Maps, you’ll get a clearer understanding of its natural features, “so you can easily distinguish tan, arid beaches, and deserts from blue lakes, rivers, oceans, and ravines,” Banerjee said, adding, “You can know at a glance how lush and green a place is with vegetation, and even see if there are snow caps on the peaks of mountaintops.”

Google used computer vision to locate natural features in its huge database of satellite imagery before applying the new coloring. It means that a densely covered forest, for example, will appear as dark green on the map, while an area of patchy shrubs will show up as a lighter shade of green.

To offer a better idea of how much more detail you’ll see on Google Maps, Banerjee posted several before/after images of various places, including Iceland (below), a country famous for its stunning natural landscapes.

Google Maps

“Iceland’s rich landscape is now much easier to visualize,” the product manager said. “You can see the varying densities of greenery throughout the country and more easily spot Vatnajökull, the largest ice cap in Iceland, which is now depicted in white.”

While these improvements are geared toward natural landscapes, Google is also planning to add highly detailed information for urban areas, too. It means you’ll soon be able to see the shape and width of a road to scale, as well as the precise location of sidewalks, crosswalks, and pedestrian islands — important for those with accessibility needs.

These more detailed city maps will land in the coming months for New York, San Francisco, and London, with more cities added over time.

For more information on how to get the most out of Google Maps, check out Digital Trends’ handy guide.

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