Goobye, tiles: Google Maps to get update with vector graphics [Updated]

Google Andy Rubin whipped out a prototype tablet tonight at the D: Dive Into Mobile conference. That it's a prototype Motorola tablet running Honeycomb is special enough. But it's what he was doing on it that sounds pretty cool. First up was Google Maps. And if there's one thing that frustrates us above all else with Google Maps, it's all that damned tiling, never mind how good our network connection is.

But tiling, apparently, is about to become a thing of the past. A vector version of Google Maps is about to drop "in a matter of days," Rubin said, and will bring better panning and zooming. Plus, 3D graphics and what not -- and offline caching.

Still images from a video don't do it justice, we're sure, so keep an eye out for the video, and for updated maps in a few days. [All Things D; Engadget]

Update: Engadget was given a list of phones that will support the new Google Maps. They are: Samsung Galaxy S, Motorola Droid, Motorola, Droid X, Motorola Droid 2, HTC Droid Incredible, HTC Evo 4G, Nexus S, HTC G2. No Nexus One, apparently, because of multitouch issues. How quickly we fall out of favor, eh?

Phil Nickinson
  • freaking sweeeet
  • What is tiling?
    or vector, for that matter?
  • Tiling is what it looks like when you drag google maps. Parts of it have to load and it loads in squares. I'm not really sure what vectoring is though.
  • Kinda nerdy but interesting if you are into graphics or just how things work.
  • Vector graphics aren't really graphics, they're actually instructions on how to draw said graphics inside a program. By sending instructions over processed data, it can be compressed and truncated, reducing the total amount of data being sent through a network.
  • Right now the map overlay that shows streets, etc. is loaded as a series of bitmap tiles. Think of the drawing as dots on a grid. Raster graphics or bitmaps are just like drawing a picture by filling in squares on graph paper. In this case the software has to download new "tiles" or smaller bitmap images every time you zoom in or out on Google maps. Vector graphics on the other hand are defined as lines and curves between points. You can zoom in or out all you want but the lines and curves scale without the need to keep reloading every little tile. tl;dr version: In the future, Google maps won't need to re-download all the images as you zoom and pan on a map. The lines and curves that define the roads and features will scale up and down with zoom and the whole thing will be more responsive.
  • To bad the NexusOne won't have all the features.
  • This will be on the Nexus One in "days" I say Friday as my guess.
  • Nice and it's coming in a matter of days he said?
  • Good explanation Jerbear. To be blunt about it, vector maps file sizes will be a fraction of the bitmap or raster maps. You can probably cache a map for an entire state in less than 5 megabytes. The idea of offline caching is awesome. You could use your GPS navigation without ever needing a data connection. I really hope that the vector graphics are also including in the Navigation app, even though just in Google Maps would be awesome.
  • The ability to cache maps offline for use in navigation would be stellar. I'm in sales and do a lot of driving, and despite having a data connection almost everywhere I go, caching a map of my territory would be a great insurance policy in case I lose service.
  • Google, just keep on doing what you're doing. Android FTW!
  • Yes, the Evo's on the list of phones that supports 100% of the new features and those listed below. Galaxy S
    Droid X
    Droid 2
    Droid Incredible
    Nexus S
    G2. Sfm Evo
  • I have a feeling this list is not complete... it makes absolutely no sense that the HTC myTouch 4G wound not have all the functionality in the new maps app. It is a brand new phone with a 1 gig processor, etc. Some of the phones on this list are older with slower processors and less functionality and less internal memory.. etc. The 4G is a top of the line phone and I suspect it will get the new maps app in all its glory.
  • It doesn't make much sense that the myTouch 3G Slide isn't on the list either.. unless it requires 480x800.
  • Yes... I agree. It makes no sense that the newer phones would not have the ability to utilize the full functionality of the new app. My best guess is that the list is incomplete and more phones will be added as it gets tested on additional phones.
  • Nice to see google is combating the recent Navigon, and then one uping them. I am supprized Google hasn't made it possible to cache already. Now just to get navigation out of beta. Google and android FTW.
  • Yeah too bad the N1 has become practically obsolete in less than a year. Gotta pay to play in this tech market.
  • Nexus One not supported eh? Firstly, sure is a coincidence that the DAY they announce the Nexus S, the Nexus One falls out of compatibility with one of their biggest apps. Secondly, guess you shouldn't have let HTC put a horrendously out of date touch screen on it huh Google? And finally, I guarantee the hacking community will have it available on the N1 within a few days of the update - weeks at the most.
  • Sounds like the nexus one will have the other new features such as vector drawing, but will only lack some if the multitouch abilities.
  • Yeah, that's how I understood it. I'm not too fussed about the multi-touch features - although it would be nice I'm happy with the usual view or compass rotating. The important thing is that the N1 will be able to have the vector graphics and offline capabilities! I'm really looking forward to trying it out.
  • If the N1 meets all the other requirements hardware-wise, I don't see why it wouldn't support the new system. In place of multitouch it has a trackball, which can be manipulated (mostly) in the same way as two fingers would. I *hope* Google has a plan for non-multitouch devices, considering the effort they're putting into this system.
  • well thats a good look on what might be getting honeyComb, (prey and hope) but that far from now soo....
  • Ahhhhh just in time! I'm leaving the country in "a few days" hopefully it will be updated by Sunday!
  • so sick of these carriers causing all this fragmentation. pisses me off that my 'more-responsive-than-my-friends-evo' hero is left out, not just in os updates cause 2.1 is good enough to do everything, Im never stopped and saying, 'oh, i cant do that.'--- and in my case, sprint is to blame. time to make some changes...