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Google MapsGL Creates Richer Visuals and Animations Using WebGL

Today, the Google Maps team is launching a beta of a brand new experience called “Google MapsGL,” which is one of the first large scale applications takes Google Maps and harnesses the power of Web Graphics Library (WebGL) to create far richer visuals and animations.

MapsGL makes use of 3D rendering and hardware graphics acceleration to provide an experience that is seamless, smooth, and runs directly in the browser.

“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,” Google said.

“MapsGL brings significant changes to how map and image tiles are rendered on the client and server. Rather than loading pre-rendered image tiles from servers, vector data for the map is sent to the browser and rendered on the fly using WebGL. This generally means that less data needs to be sent to the browser, but also that every aspect of the map needs to be rendered on the order of ~20ms per frame in order to achieve a reasonable frame rate. Imagery transitions in Maps are also enhanced by loading 3D metadata along with image tiles, allowing Maps to provide rich 3D transitions between different levels and angles of imagery,” explains Google.

“We also found that performance dependent Javascript and WebGL optimizations were needed in order for MapsGL to run properly on slower hardware. For example, there are a number of users with graphics cards that can’t currently run WebGL content. In these cases, we don’t give the user the ability to opt-in and they can continue with the current Maps experience,” added Google.

“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.”

Google Maps GL

Check out Chrome Experiments WebGL for more WebGL-powered applications, WebGL documentation, and opt in to Google MapsGL to begin using the next generation of mapping today by visiting maps.google.com and click “Try it now,” or visit maps.google.com/gl to learn more.

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