Google unveils updated Maps

This comes as little surprise, with rumors and leaks being rampant, but Google today unveils a new version of its popular Maps application at its I/O conference. A sign-up page had briefly been available earlier in the day, allowing users a glimpse at the new features. Then of course, there is a listing for "Google Maps: Into the Future" right on the conference site. Now we receive confirmation.

The new update brings a number of features that do, in fact, bring the service "into the future". The updates are for both mobile (tablet and smartphone) and browser -- some for each.

Google began by pointing out that Maps launched an API back in 2005 and now boasts one million users, while Maps itself now has one billion monthly customers. Google also discussed its success, and accuracy, on the iPhone (take that Apple) before getting down to what we all wanted to know -- what is new in this latest version of the famous mapping program.

Well, for starters there are new ratings for restaurants provided by Zagat integration, users will also get offers for the locations they find -- for instance you may find a $1 off at Starbucks coupon.

As for mapping itself, there is now dynamic rerouting to get you around traffic, new transit maps and options, as well as the ability to upload Photosphere images to Maps for any location. There's an Explore feature that lets users find interesting locations in their current area (museums, parks and the like), a brand new search that includes reviews from friends, Google Now-like cards and 3D images courtesy of Street View. Mapping can even highlight roads when a destination is clicked -- displaying labels on previously unnamed roads and showing routes to the destination.

Perhaps the coolest feature may be the integration of Google Sky which now shows real time imagery. When users zoom out to view the whole Earth,  they can see clouds, the position of the sun and even where the Earth is in its rotation.

Features like Sky are available now, while others, like Explore, will be coming this summer. The latest version can be seen at maps.google.com/preview.

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