With Google Maps and Bing Maps Streetside you can navigate between immersive 360-degree panoramas to visualize your route. Although this street-view integration is very helpful in visualizing your route before you drive it, there are problems with it and the brainiacs at Microsoft Reseach think they have the solution. They describe the problem like this: “The discrete moves from bubble [360-degree panorama] to bubble enabled in these systems do not provide a good visual sense of a larger aggregate such as a whole city block. Multi-perspective “strip” panoramas can provide a visual summary of a city street but lack the full realism of immersive panoramas.” In other words they can be quite disorienting. Their solution, called Street Side, allows you to seamlessly zoom out of the bubble to view a multi-perspective panorama view of a street. In this zoomed out view you can pan across an entire street to find exactly what you’re looking for or to plan your route in a more effective way. Once you find a particular destination or a location you’d like to investigate further simply zoom in to view a part of a street on more detail. The mapping tech is extremely impressive; check it out for yourself in the demonstration above. The developers are currently making an iPhone (and presumably a Windows Phone 7) version of the maps to bring to mobile devices. Don’t get too excited, though; only about 2400 panoramas of 4 kilometers of streets has been covered thus far.
No, the new search engine by Microsoft is not the next Google. But it is a positive force in the search engine arena. Bing allows you to search the categories phrases, images, videos, shopping, news, maps, and travel. What is interesting about Bing is that when you make a search, not only does it provide links about your search term, but it also gives you local information that relate to your searched item. For example, if you search “video games,” sites like GameSpot, GameTrailers, and others show up. At the bottom of the search, Bing also shows you video of the lastest games and locations where you might want to rent/buy a video game near you. Another nice touch: when hover over a related link, Bing provides a quick synopsis of what is contained in that site. Yes, the Bing user interface is clean, fresh, and easy…but this is not enough to overtake other search engine overlords like Google and Yahoo!. Many of the local features in Bing can be found in iGoogle and Yahoo!’s personalized websites. If Microsoft wants to truly make an impact in this sector of the Internet, it must use Bing in creative new ways and offer services that have not yet been tried again and again by Google and the others. Try it out for yourself; Bing is officially up and running today: www.bing.com. Also, check after the break for the first commercial for Bing; it’s interesting. (Click here for more…)