Earlier this week, Google added a new button to the Google Maps Web interface that allows the user to view a 3D birdseye view of the route. To utilize the new feature, simply plug in a start point and a end point to the directions section of Google Maps. After calculating the route, look for a “3D” button next to the text “Driving directions”. After pressing the new “3D” button, the map shifts into Google Earth view and begins navigating the route. The concept is similar to the Soarin’ Over California attraction at Disneyland’s California Adventure, a theme park ride that lifts people into the air and simulates a flight over scenic portions of California.
The 3D simulation of the route can be paused at any time and users can rotate the map exploring the terrain of the surrounding area. After resuming the simulated flight, users can view each leg of the trip by watching the highlighted section within the directions on the left side of the screen. Users can also jump to other sections of the trip by clicking on a specific section within the directions. Users can also pop back into 2D mode at any time during the animation. In addition to the 3D animation, users can also stop during the simulation to click on pictures and information links to learn more about the surrounding area or major landmarks.
The 3D helicopter view is currently being rolled out slowly across different regions and may not be available for all users yet. Google Maps recently received a bit of negative attention when criminals in Chicago used the service to satellite view to seek out expensive homes next to highways. Google Maps helped the man in question burglarize nine suburban homes and steal $100,000 worth of jewelry and electronics.