Since it launched 15 years ago, Google Maps has redefined what it means to be a map–evolving from a powerful navigational tool to a robust daily companion that also offers helpful information about where to go and what to do. Features like popular times, multimodal navigation, and offline maps help you better understand your world so you can decide how to interact with it.
This week, we’re rolling out new visual improvements that bring even more detail and granularity to the map, making it easier to understand what an area looks like whether you’re exploring virtually or planning a visit.
A more colorful and accurate view of the world 🌎
Google Maps has high-definition satellite imagery for over 98 percent of the world’s population. With a new color-mapping algorithmic technique, we’re able to take this imagery and translate it into an even more comprehensive, vibrant map of an area at global scale. Exploring a place gives you a look at its natural features—so you can easily distinguish tan, arid beaches and deserts from blue lakes, rivers, oceans and ravines. You can know at a glance how lush and green a place is with vegetation, and even see if there are snow caps on the peaks of mountaintops.
With this update, Google Maps has one of the most comprehensive views of natural features on any major map app—with availability in all 220 countries and territories that Google Maps supports. That’s coverage for over 100M square kilometers of land, or 18 billion football fields!
This update is visible no matter what area you’re looking at—from the biggest metropolitan areas to small, rural towns.
Mapping the rainbow 🌈
How exactly does this color-mapping technique work? First, we use computer vision to identify natural features from our satellite imagery, looking specifically at arid, icy, forested, and mountainous regions. We then analyze these features and assign them a range of colors on the HSV color model. For example, a densely covered forest can be classified as dark green, while an area of patchy shrubs could appear as a lighter shade of green.