When it was first launched,Â Virtual EarthÂ from Microsoft was nothing more than a Google maps clone, with older aerial photographs.
Then came the ‘Walk the streets‘ function which was very impressive, but never actually made it into full production and has remained in ‘Preview’ mode and thus still has only limited availability (San Fransisco & Seattle) which makes it untenable.
Finally though, the Microsoft Live development team have come up with something unique and worthwhile. Birds eye view mapping.
Using Virtual Earth, users can nowÂ see images from a Birds eyeÂ view of most major (and quite a few minor)Â cities and towns in the UK inÂ their webÂ browsers.
The images are much closer and more detailed than the aerial photography that was used previously and the shots are far more recent.
I have analyzedÂ the shotsÂ taken overÂ CardiffÂ and have come to the conclusion that they were taken sometime in the earlyÂ summer of 2006. Perhaps May or June.
Here we see Cardiff Castle, as viewed from the South, looking North.
Another great feature is that you can change your vantage point, you can choose to look from any point of the compass. The magic of this is that the map is not simply rotated, but separate photos have been taken from each different view. If you are looking from the North to South, you can see different sides of buildings, etc. It’s all very impressive.
Here we see Cardiff Castle, as viewed from the North, looking South.
The images have more than likely been taken from an aeroplane, or perhaps even a helicopter, which has clearly spent a lot of flying timeÂ shooting all of these high quality images.
The software is impressive too, asÂ AJAX applications go, this is pretty neat, and being written using AJAX, no dowload is required to view the maps. There don’t appear to be too many glitches, especially when using IE7. I have come across the odd few, but nothing too major, certainly nothing that inhibits the use of the website.
Bravo Microsoft, you have outdone yourselves this time.