Google Adds Satellite Imagery to Maps

Google quietly updated its Maps service late Monday to include satellite imagery, a first in the industry. With images provided by DigitalGlobe and EarthSat, users can now zoom in on homes and businesses across the United States and Canada, even charting out directions over actual streets.

The latest update to Google Maps comes only two months after Google launched the service, in a similarly silent fashion.

Much of Google Maps remains the same - just with detailed pictures from high-tech satellites instead of standard map graphics. Maps can be dragged to view adjacent areas, which means users do not have click and wait for graphics to reload. Zooming is also instantaneous with the help of a slider placed atop the map.

A check of certain areas by BetaNews found that the images appear to be mostly accurate. For example, lower Manhattan was updated fairly recently, noted by color differences in the images.

Step-by-step driving directions can also be displayed over the satellite imagery. Clicking on one of the steps pops up a floating bubble containing a magnified view of the area.

The satellite technology comes from Keyhole, which Google purchased last October. With its integration into Google Maps, the company is opening the door to its high-tech images free of cost. Keyhole previously charged $29.95 for its basic software package.

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