One of Google Maps’ standout features in the past two years is Immersive View, a three-dimensional map of important locations and cities, as well as Immersive View for Routes, which expands into a three-dimensional map of routes.
Now, the Immersive View for Routes feature is available in Amsterdam, Barcelona, Dublin, Florence, Las Vegas, London, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Paris, San Francisco, San Jose, Seattle, Tokyo, and Venice.
The Google team has written a blog explaining the background of creating the three-dimensional models, which is divided into five steps.
Step 1: Combine various types of photographs, including aerial, satellite, or Street Views, to align them with the original data of Google Maps. This alignment is done with the help of programming techniques to ensure centimeter-level accuracy.
Step 2: Understand the signs and objects in the images using AI and computer vision techniques. This includes reading building names, street names, and various traffic signs to understand their meanings. This understanding enables Google Maps’ navigation system to lead us to the correct building entrance, rather than to a general area of the building.
Another example that Google brings up is the “Slow” signs, which have similar appearances in each country. Algorithms are used to distinguish these signs accordingly.
Step 3: Convert the two-dimensional images into three-dimensional models. The challenge here is that the map data does not reveal the height of buildings and roads. To solve this problem, Google uses aerial cameras with slightly different angles to capture multiple photos. These photos are then used to calculate the heights.
Once this height data is compared and analyzed, a program is written to generate the three-dimensional models.
Step 4: Create suitable routes. After successfully creating the models of the locations, Google needs to find a way to navigate users. The difficulty lies in displaying the 3D route in a way that is visible and understandable for users. Google achieves this by employing algorithms for panning, zooming, and camera movement, following the B-spline curve that is mathematically calculated. This ensures smooth and clear visual representation of various objects.
Step 5: Simulate real data from Google Maps, such as weather conditions, air quality, and traffic, onto the 3D map to make the simulated routes as close as possible to reality during different time periods. For example, if this particular road experiences heavy traffic at certain times, the Immersive View will depict the increased traffic.
Rendering these images is a combination of user-side rendering and cloud rendering (Immersive Stream for XR) sent back to the user’s device.
TLDR: Google Maps’ new standout feature is Immersive View, a three-dimensional map of important locations and cities, and Immersive View for Routes, a three-dimensional route map. The creation process involves aligning photographs with existing data, understanding signs and objects using AI, converting 2D images into 3D models, creating suitable routes, and simulating real data for an immersive experience.