Explore the haunted corners of the world... if you dare

Wednesday, October 29, 2014 at 2:20 PM

Something wicked this way comes… Whether you’re a trio of witches back from the dead or just a trick-or-treater, chances are you’re hitting the streets (or riding a broom!) on Halloween night. For those looking for an extra fright, take a tour of spooky places from around the world on Google Maps.

Start in 19th century Paris. While cheery guests listen to the beautiful arias at the Opéra Garnier, a dreary lake lies beneath the streets. Floating above the silent water, a phantom lurks. Are your eyes playing tricks on you... or is that a cloaked figure looming in the shadows?

Standing at the steps of Craigdarroch Castle in Victoria, BC, you might believe you’ve found the perfect home away from home. Think again… listen closely for the sounds of a piano playing softly throughout the house. The spirit of a ghastly pianist is said to linger in the corridors and windows.

If you’re feeling ill, the abandoned Xinglin hospital in Taiwan is not the place to go. For years, passersby have sighted now-deceased patients, both young and old, in the treacherous fourth- and fifth-floor windows. To this day, people claim to hear wailing in the night from inside the hospital’s haunted walls.

Not all spooky stories are made up. For three decades, the Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary was home to some 1,500 of the world’s most infamous prisoners. Surrounded by bone-chilling waters, “the Rock” was notorious as the toughest prison in America.

If these spooky spots whet your appetite for fear, get up close with some of the most frightful locations in Google Maps Gallery and find ghouls and goblins in haunted houses around the world. If you’re looking for a laugh instead of a scream, take a hayride through your local corn maze, find the perfect jack-o-lantern at your neighboring pumpkin patch, and scout the best trick-or-treat routes near you.

Now get your cauldrons bubbling and monsters mashing because after all, this is Halloween!

Explore the world through Google Earth for Android with fast, accurate maps

Wednesday, October 22, 2014 at 9:53 AM

Whether you’re sailing down the Mississippi River or trekking through the Swiss Alps, Google Earth can inspire your next adventure. To help power your digital travels, Google Earth for Android is getting an update over the next week—with an enhanced 3D experience, quicker updates to the map, and an easier way to view your KML files in Earth.

Starting today, you’ll see faster, smoother, and crisper transitions as you’re zooming into your dream destination in Google Earth. Thanks to a new 3D rendering technology—the first major 3D overhaul since Earth launched more than 10 years ago—sharper views of mountains and cities are just a virtual skydive away.

Built from scratch, our new 3D technology gives you sharper views in Google Earth for Android

As you’re flying around Paris or looking for things to do in Tokyo, you can rest assured knowing that the globe in your pocket will show you the freshest information, with Google Earth now getting the same updates as Google Maps. Roads and labels have gotten a visual refresh as well, making Earth’s styling easier on the eyes for you virtual explorers.


Roads and labels get a refresh in the newest version of Earth

And if you’ve created your own map for Google Earth—whether you’re a teacher preparing a history lesson, a researcher tracking changes in the environment, or just a geospatial enthusiast—you’ll now be able to open your KML files from Google Drive directly in the Earth app, so you can view it on the go.

Save a few clicks when viewing your KML files on the go

To discover the world with these updates in hand, head to the Play Store and download Google Earth for Android. Stay tuned for more 3D updates in the coming months!

Explore Gombe National Park through the eyes of Dr. Jane Goodall

Tuesday, October 21, 2014 at 7:00 AM

In July 1960, Dr. Jane Goodall stepped off the boat in what is now Gombe National Park, Tanzania with a pair of second-hand binoculars and a notepad. She was 26 years old, and was there to observe and record the behavior of chimpanzees in the wild. This summer, after four planes and a boat ride, I took my first (wobbly) steps onto the shores of Lake Tanganyika. I was about to walk the same paths that Dr. Goodall took to do her groundbreaking research into the lives of chimpanzees. And now—thanks to a Google Maps partnership with the Jane Goodall Institute and Tanzania National Parks—so can you.

We were invited to Gombe National Park to capture a record of this historic place, where today the Jane Goodall Institute manages the longest-running chimpanzee research study in the world. It was here that Dr. Goodall first witnessed chimpanzees fishing for termites using a blade of grass as a tool to dig them out of their mounds. Using tools was an act previously believed to be unique to humans. Her observations revolutionized our understanding of chimpanzees—animals that share 98 percent of our DNA—and redefined the very notion of “human.” More than 50 years later, protecting chimpanzees and their habitat is central to the mission of the Jane Goodall Institute (JGI).

Pushing through the brush, carrying the Street View Trekker, we collected thousands of 360 degree images along the narrow paths of the park to share with the world. We first stopped at a location Jane calls “The Peak”—her favorite vantage point. I could imagine her looking out over the canopies, peering tirelessly through her binoculars, writing in her notebook, and observing these beautiful animals as they swung through the trees.

In the spirit of preservation, the Institute plans to use Gombe Street View as a unique archive of this special place, available to future generations of researchers. This imagery complements JGI’s current monitoring efforts using satellite imagery and mapping to protect 85 percent of the remaining chimpanzees in Africa. Young people will also be inspired to explore the wild through the 360 degree imagery as part of JGI’s educational program, Jane Goodall's Roots and Shoots.

This Street View collection is our small contribution to the already rich legacy of science and discovery at Gombe. Wherever you are, take a moment to experience what it’s like to be Jane for a day: peek into her house, take a dip in Lake Tanganyika, spot the chimp named Google and try to keep up with Glitter and Gossamer.

We hope you enjoy exploring this living laboratory for yourself!

Special thank you to Dr. Jane Goodall, Dr. Lilian PinteaBill WallauerDr. Anthony Collins and many more members of the Jane Goodall Institute in the United States and Tanzania, as well as TANAPA, for all of the knowledge and time they contributed to this project.

Roam the Arabian desert with Street View

Tuesday, October 7, 2014 at 11:00 PM

Imagine sitting atop a camel looking across a vast expanse of desert dunes. A glimmer of green flashes in the distance. It could be a mirage or a bountiful oasis just awaiting your discovery. Now with Google Maps, you can see for yourself and journey across the sands of the Liwa Desert, one of the most breathtaking landscapes in the world.

On your virtual trip through the desert, you’ll find sand dunes that reach an astounding height of 25-40 meters. These rolling sandy hills were home to early settlers back in the Late Stone Age, making Liwa one of the oldest sites in the United Arab Emirates.

Some of the richest history in this desert lies in the Liwa Oasis—the largest oasis in the Arabian peninsula. Many people across the UAE can trace their origins to the first tribes that settled there and established the region as a trade center. The oasis is also home to date farms, whose trees and fruit are important cultural symbols—the trunks of the palms were used to weave the walls of Bedouin tents, baskets and more, while the fruit was a treasured treat for the locals. Now, the oasis is a sought out location for tourists around the world and those who live in the area.

To bring this stunning desert to Street View, we fashioned the Trekker to rest on a camel, which gathered imagery as it walked. Using camels for the collection allowed us to collect authentic imagery and minimize our disruption of this fragile environment.

Street View Trekker mounted on a camel

We hope this collection gives you a glimpse of what it may be like to travel the desert as caravan merchants have for the past 3000 years. Should you make the journey here in person, who knows—you may meet some new friends. To see more, visit our Street View gallery.

Make your own way with the new My Maps

Tuesday, September 16, 2014 at 8:30 AM

As temperatures cool down, you might be searching for your next warm vacation spot. Starting today, you can get a little inspiration by going to Google Maps Gallery and browsing publicly shared custom maps of all types. Just look up sunny “Los Angeles” to find the best hiking trails, street art, breweries and more to do in La-La Land. And, for those of you who are actually looking forward to the winter, see what ski options others have recommended, with the maps they created of their favorite slopes and resorts.

An insider’s take on the best views and paths of Cahuenga Peak, Los Angeles—including a walk to the Hollywood sign!

Once you’re done daydreaming, plan out your own trip with the new My Maps (previously Google Maps Engine Lite), adding images, descriptions, custom icons, and place details along the way. Make sure to download the My Maps Android app so you can also view your map or make a change on the go, or check out others’ maps while you’re on your way. Did you plot out the perfect vacation? Share it publicly so others can get inspired, too—or if you prefer, keep your secret spots safe by setting your map to private or by sharing with a lucky few.

With these tools for exploration in hand, you can find and create maps for anything you’re interested in—like a collection of Sherlock Holmes’ famous haunts, or global tributes to Nelson Mandela. The possibilities are pretty much endless—students have photographed and mapped a city’s public art installments, authors have laid out their stories’ locations on the map, and activists have plotted out shelters and distribution centers during emergency situations.

Find Nelson Mandela tributes, speeches and more in Maps Gallery

If you’ve already been creating custom maps with classic My Maps, today you can upgrade all your content to the new My Maps, and enjoy these new options. You can import spreadsheets, easily include images and YouTube videos, and organize your locations and routes however you want.

By the end of this year, all maps created in classic Google Maps will automatically upgrade to the new My Maps, but to get started right away, open up the new My Maps and “Upgrade now,” then check out the tour—found in the settings menu—for tips on creating your own custom content.

Where will your map take you?

Posted by Heather Folsom, Product Manager, My Maps