3D Maps Are Coming: Will They Actually Be Useful?

The latest front in the great Google-Apple war is to provide 3D maps on Smartphones, which at first sounds like a chest-thumping battle of techno-corporate pride, but after a bit of investigation might actually benefit people who are stuck with plain old 2D. Android phones already include a 3D version of maps. But today Google announced it would hold a maps-centric event on June 6 at which, the press release explains, the company will "demo some of the newest technology and provide a sneak peek at upcoming features that will help people get where they want to go – both physically and virtually." That event will take place one week before Apple's WWDC event on June 11, where Apple is expected to unveil its latest iOS Maps app -- which is currently runs on Google's technology, but is expected to be replaced by some Apple-owned 3D technology. Like we said, this all sounds a bit like a war over looking cool. But, we can think of some reasons we would want 3D maps.

RELATED: iPhone Users Might Get a Google Maps App for Christmas

  • Landmarks. At least with Apple's technology, which comes from C3 Technologies, a company it bought up last year, the maps will show the city-scape, not just the streets and their names. Using technology designed for guiding missiles, according to this Fast Company write-up, the renderings get within six inches of accuracy. Yes, that will look cool, as the video below of Oslo proves. But for someone trying to get around, it will show actual buildings that can act as landmarks as you're trying to find your way.

RELATED: Amazon Doesn't Want Google Maps Either

  • Augmented reality. Imagine this: You're looking through a 3D Maps app and see an intriguing store front, which would not have showed up on a flat, mostly streets version. "What is this Cool Store?" you ask. Just tap it and, since your phone is connected to the Internet, some useful information will pop up for you. We imagine it would work like this video below, which we found on British tech news site, Hexus. This sounds more appealing than wearing dorkwad Google Glasses. Not only does it look less nerdy, but it augments reality on command -- not all the time, which softens the creepy factor.

RELATED: iPhone Location Tracking Gets Worse: Apple Saves the Data

  • Avoid Steep Hills. If things look that accurate, maybe the 3D maps will show some topography. We bet those living or visiting hilly cities would love that. As anyone who has navigated themselves up a massive hill can attest, sometimes the recommended route is also the most torturous.
  • Exploration. With these super accurate 3D renderings, one can just look at a city-scape and pick a fun-looking area and go. It kind of puts the adventure back into traveling, something smartphones, with all their accurate information and precise directions, kind of took away from navigators.

Other than that, though, the maps just look cool. To some, maybe even too cool. All those pop-up buildings might distract some navigators.

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