Google has released an upgrade to Google Maps that offers 3D-style graphics and lets you swoop into Street View without a plugin.
The upgrade, called Google MapsGL, uses Google’s Web Graphics Library (the “GL” part) to bring 3D-like graphics to the browser. To use MapsGL, you have to have supported browsers like Chrome 14+ or Firefox Beta with compatible video cards. If that’s the case, go to Google Maps‘ homepage and you should see a prompt.
As Evan Parker, a software engineer at Google outlines in the video below, MapsGL also brings vector maps that are available on Android to the desktop and offers sharper satellite views that can now be smoothly rotated. Another new feature is the ability to take “Pegman” — Google’s name for its drag-and-drop Street View locator icon — and place him within an area and then seamlessly transition to Street View.