You’re now one step closer to experiencing and interacting with a 3D mirror of the real world within your browser with Google MapsGL. Google MapsGL takes Google Maps and harnesses the power of Web Graphics Library (WebGL) to create far richer visuals and animations.
WebGL is a new technology that brings hardware-accelerated 3D graphics to the browser without additional installed software. With WebGL your maps experience is much better with 3D buildings, smoother transitions between imagery and the ability to instantly “swoop” into Street View without a plugin.
Starting today, if you’re using supported browsers (such as Chrome 14+ or Firefox Beta) with compatible video cards, you can opt in to the early beta release. Visit maps.google.com and click “Try it now,” or visit maps.google.com/gl to learn more.
We’ve been using WebGL to create experiences like our Chrome experiments “3 Dreams of Black” and “All is Not Lost,” which happen right in the browser. Previously, such sophisticated 3D graphics have only been possible on traditional desktop applications and have required manual installation. WebGL ushers in a whole new generation of graphics on the web, and with that, we can begin to redefine the expectations of an online map.
With Google Street View, you can do amazing things such as hike around Stonehenge or even ski down Whistler’s slopes—all without leaving home. Soon, you’ll be able to float down the Amazon and Rio Negro Rivers of northwest Brazil and experience some of the most remote and biodiverse areas in the world. A few members of our Brazil and U.S. Street View and Google Earth Outreach teams are currently in the Amazon rainforest using our Street View technology to capture images of the river, surrounding forests and adjacent river communities. In partnership with the Amazonas Sustainable Foundation (FAS), the local non-profit conservation organization that invited us to the area, we’re training some of FAS’s representatives on the imagery collection process and leaving some of our equipment behind for them to continue the work. By teaching locals how to operate these tools, they can continue sharing their points of view, culture and ways of life with audiences across the globe.
We’ll pedal the Street View trike along the narrow dirt paths of the Amazon villages and maneuver it up close to where civilization meets the rainforest. We’ll also mount it onto a boat to take photographs as the boat floats down the river. The tripod—which is the same system we use to capture imagery of business interiors—will also be used to give you a sense of what it’s like to live and work in places such as an Amazonian community center and school.
Image of the Tumbira community in the Rio Negro Sustainable Development Reserve
In this first phase of the project, the Google and FAS teams will visit and capture imagery from a 50km section of the Rio Negro River, extending from the Tumbira community near Manaus—the capital of the state of Amazonas—to the Terra Preta community. We’ll then process the imagery of the river and the communities as usual, stitching the still photos into 360-degree panoramics.
Image of the Tumbira Community
For many outdoor enthusiasts, travelers and environmentalists, this creates an opportunity to experience the wonders of the Amazon, which will be accessible in a way they’d previously only dreamed about. We’re honored to work with FAS on this project to bring the Amazon online for those who can’t visit in person, and help our partners share with the world the unique stories of its inhabitants and the beauty of this place they call home.