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With over 600,000 sites actively using the Google Maps API, more people around the world view maps provided by the Maps API than any other source. For this reason it’s vitally important that Google Maps provides the most accurate and up to date map data possible. For this reason we're happy to introduce updated maps and the "Report a Problem" tool to France, Luxembourg, and Monaco.

As with previous updates in countries such as the U.S.A., Australia, and parts of Europe, this update utilizes a wide range of authoritative sources such as the Institut Geographique National. In addition, the "Report a Problem" tool on Google Maps allows you to let us know if some aspect of the map that needs correcting, and we'll do our best to address it quickly (often within just a few days).

These map updates will roll out over the next 24 hours across all our Maps APIs and related services. As with previous updates we do ask that you refresh any data that you have previously obtained for these countries using Maps API Web Services, and cached for use in your Maps API application. If you have any questions or concerns relating to this, please post them to the Google Maps API forums.

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If you’re looking for some help to plan your next vacation, luckily there are some new sites to help you decide where to go, how to get there, and what to do once you’re there. Gone are the days of tedious library research, transportation schedule matching, and needlessly getting lost. These applications can do it all for you.

Rome 2 Rio

Rome 2 Rio is one of the most exciting new Google Maps API applications. Start by entering any two end points in the search fields and Rome 2 Rio will give you a list route options that include flights, trains, ferry, and driving directions. When you select a given route, the site allows you to view the details of each leg plotted out on the map and also gives you pricing options for flights. To learn more watch this video from Rome 2 Rio.

The Guardian - FCO Travel Advice Map

The U.K. Foreign & Commonwealth Office regularly issues travel advice for British citizens on the safest places to travel. Before you plan your next vacation, it might be worthwhile checking this map published by the Guardian that uses Google Fusion Tables to map out advice from the FCO. This map provides a fascinating snapshot of world travel.

Plnnr

Plnnr is a one stop shop for travel planning advice. You start Plnnr by selecting a destination and length of stay. Then you select a theme (with kids, outdoors, popular, or culture experience), your level of intensity (more leisurely travel or ‘see everything’ travel), and your desired level of luxury. Based on these values, Plnnr builds a top to bottom trip itinerary complete with route maps, hotels, and attractions. You can print these plans out or share them with friends online. It’s a great tool to help you get a lay of the land before you even visit a new city.

Pitchup.com

Pitchup.com is a new project to help U.K. campers find campsites or attractions and share reviews. The site has a wide range of tools to help your zero in on what you’re looking for. There are search tools for camping options (lodges, tents, trailers, etc.), layers of nearby photos and videos from Panoramio and YouTube, detailed information about each campsite, and much much more.

Sit or Squat

Ask anyone who’s spent significant time traveling and they’ll tell you one of the biggest difficulties on the road is finding a good public restroom. While you’re out and about, Sit or Squat makes this task easier by providing a list of over 105,000 open toilets from around the world. There are even pictures, descriptions, and ratings to help your decide where’s the best place to go!

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The Fusion Tables Layer has been one of the most successful new features launched in the Maps API in the last year. We have seen a wealth of fascinating data visualizations that rely on Fusion Tables, such as the Bay Citizen Bike Accident Tracker and the WNYC Police Precinct map.

At Google I/O this week, Simon Rogers of the Guardian joined me and Kathryn Hurley of the Geo Developer Relations team to present some examples of how the Guardian uses Fusion Tables to visualise data for their readers, and introduce some great new features:

Fusion Tables allows you to share large tables of spatial data and render them on a map in a way that performs consistently well across all browsers, on desktop and mobile. The way in which the data is styled on the map, the markers used for points, the colours and stroke widths used for polylines and polygons, can be defined by the owner of the table in the Fusion Tables application, or using the new Fusion Tables Styling and InfoWindows API. However only the owner of the table can define the styling in this way, and styling for any single table is fixed.

At Google I/O we introduced Dynamic Styling of Fusion Tables layers. This allows the styling rules used for displaying a table in a Maps API application to be defined from JavaScript, and changed dynamically. For example you can use this to switch between rendering different data sets in the same table, or giving users control over which subset of the data is highlighted, as in the below example based on a public table of Chicago Homicides data:

In order to ensure the continued reliability of the Fusion Tables layer, we are also introducing some limits on the number of layers that can be used, and the complexity of styling. The Maps API now permits up to five Fusion Tables layers to be added to a map, one of which can be styled with up to five styling rules.

For information and code samples of how to apply dynamic styling to Fusion Tables, see our documentation, and for further assistance I recommend the Google Maps JavaScript API V3 forum. It’s great to see the creative ways in which Fusion Tables Layer is being used, and we hope this new flexibility will drive even more inspiring and informative Maps API applications.

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Google I/O 2011 kicked off today, and we have a great line up of sessions on the Geo track. First up this morning was a session on "Connecting people with places", in which we were delighted to announce general availability of the Google Places API.

This represents the culmination of the Developer Preview launched last year, shortly after we introduced the Places API at Google I/O 2010. Interest in the Preview was overwhelming and we have been amazed by the innovative use cases suggested for the API. The developers we worked with provided a great deal of extremely valuable feedback on all aspects of the API, including features, performance, usability, and terms of use.

We’ve been working hard to implement the recommendations we received during the Preview. As a result the service launching today includes many new features, most of which are a direct result of this developer feedback:

  • A globally consistent type scheme for Places, spanning more than 100 types such as bar, restaurant, and lodging
  • Name and type based query support
  • A significantly simpler key based authentication scheme
  • Global coverage across every country covered by Google Maps
  • Google APIs Console integration, which provides group ownership of projects, key management, and usage monitoring
  • Instant reflection of new Places submitted by an app in subsequent searches made by that app, with new Places shared with all apps after moderation
  • Real time reranking of search results based on current check-in activity, so that Places that are currently popular are automatically ranked higher in searches by your app

In addition to these changes we’re also adding a companion Autocomplete service to the Places API, which predicts the Places a user might be looking for as they type. This service is based on the same technology that powers the search field on the Google Maps website, and can dramatically reduce the amount of typing needed when searching for a known place by name, which is particularly valuable on mobile devices.

Both the Places API Search service and the Places API Autocomplete service are offered as XML/JSON REST based web services. These APIs are currently both in Google Code Labs, which means they are not yet included in Maps API Premier. However we are working to graduate the APIs from Code Labs in the near future, at which point the service will also be offered to Maps API Premier developers.

To get started, please follow the instructions in the documentation for obtaining an APIs console key, and enabling the Places API on that key. If you have joined us at Google I/O this year, come along to our session on "Building Location Based apps using Google APIs" at 3pm on Wednesday, in which our Tech Lead, Marcelo Camelo, will be diving into the API in more detail.

In addition to these web services we are also launching a new places library in the Google Maps API which includes:

  • A PlacesService that allows Places API queries to be issued by Maps API applications
  • A class that can attach Autocomplete behaviour to any text field on a web page, with the predicted places biased to a specific location or map viewport

The below demo uses the PlacesService to display Places on a map in response to changes in the map view port. An individual Place can also be mapped using the Autocomplete enabled search field:

If you would like to provide any feedback about the Places API or Maps API, or you have suggestions for improvements or new features, please let us know using the Maps API Issue Tracker. You can also discuss our APIs using the Maps API Developer Forums.

We’re very excited to make all of these great Places services available to all of our Maps API developers today. We know many of you have been eagerly awaiting access to the Places API, and we appreciate your patience. Places bridge the divide between the way that maps and computers represent the world, and the way that people relate to it. We believe that the launch of the Places API will spark a whole new wave of innovative location based application development, both on mobile and desktop, and we can’t wait to see how it is used.

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Reposted from the Google Research Blog

Google Fusion Tables is a modern data management and publishing web application that makes it easy to host, manage, collaborate on, visualize, and publish data tables online. Since we first launched Fusion Tables almost two years ago, we've seen tremendous interest and usage from dozens of areas, from journalists to scientists to open-data entrepreneurs, and have been excited to see the innovative applications that our users have been able to rapidly build and publish.

We've been working hard to enrich what Fusion Tables offers for customization and control of visual presentation. This past fall we added the ability to style the colors and icons of mapped data with a few clicks in the Fusion Tables web app. This spring we made it easy to use HTML and customize what users see in the info window that appears after a click on the map. We’ve enjoyed seeing the impressive visualizations you have created. Some, like the Guardian’s map of deprivation in the UK, were created strictly within the web app, while apps like the Bay Citizen’s Bike Accident tracker and the Texas Tribune’s Census 2010 interactive map take advantage of the Fusion Tables SQL API to do even more customization.


Of course, it’s not always convenient to do everything through a web interface, and today we’re delighted to invite trusted testers to try out the new Fusion Tables Styling and Info Window API. Now developers will be able to set a table’s map colors and info windows with code.

Even better, this new Styling and Info Window API will be part of the Google APIs Console. The Google APIs Console helps you manage projects and teams, provision access quotas, and view analytics and metrics on your API usage. It also offers sample code that supports the OAuth 2.0 client key management flow you need to build secure apps for your users.

So if you've been looking for a way to programmatically create highly-customizable map visualizations from data tables, check out our new APIs and let us know what you think! To become a trusted tester, please apply to join the Google Group and tell us a little bit about how you use the Fusion Tables API.

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By John Taylor, Lead Game Designer, Travel Game
This post is part of Who's at Google I/O, a series of guest blog posts written by developers who are appearing in the Developer Sandbox at Google I/O.

Travel Game is the first online social game powered by Google Earth, and the first game of its kind to provide players with real, free travel rewards. Currently in beta testing, Travel Game is being unveiled for the first time at Google I/O 2011. Travel Game was conceived by Jeff Katz, a technology and travel industry veteran, and founding CEO of Orbitz, Inc. Touristo and Skydiver, our first two titles, provide players with the experience of sky diving over the Earth and navigating a Touristo vehicle through exotic locales via Google Earth’s virtual 3D globe. To take advantage of the awesome imagery, terrain, and 3D models available in Google Earth, we built a custom framework that ties into several Google APIs, including Google Earth, Google Maps, and even Google’s currency converter API.

We wanted to give users the best possible experience – with high-quality game play, animations, and sound – so we based our framework on a blend of Javascript, Flash, and a custom back-end, all tied into the Google Earth APIs. We designed an XML structure that lets our game designers add new game packs easily and – some day – we may give users tools to do the same. For example, part of our framework lets game designers add “targets” inside Google Earth using XML like this:
<target action="addTarget">
    <itemPath>assets/images/blank.png</itemPath>
    <longitude>-157.8459651634087</longitude>
    <latitude>21.31249095467307</latitude>
    <imageRadius>.0000018</imageRadius>
    <targetRadius>20</targetRadius>
</target>
We created a Javascript architecture to interpret the XML and make several calls to the Google Earth API to set up the scene and add 3D models as markers for the target. We then track the user’s position relative to the target using Google Earth’s ground overlays. This involves a lot of background processing, but we were surprised at how well it performs. Based on the social trends we know are emerging in real travel, we’re also tying features into Facebook, like posting places visited in Travel Game to your wall, sending gifts to friends, and eventually inviting friends to play along for group prizes. We’re even injecting the user’s Facebook photos into Google Earth.
The current beta version of Travel Game has been developed and nurtured by a team of travel and gaming industry experts. We’re extremely excited about creating online exploration that translates into real-world experiences. At this point, we’re just scratching the surface and see great potential for creating more great games and social communities as an overlay to Google Earth. Come see Travel Game in the Developer Sandbox at Google I/O on May 10-11. John Taylor has been designing and developing software for 20 years for companies like Electronic Arts, Lucas Learning, and the Disney Channel. Before that, he circled the globe a few times and worked as a writer and film editor.

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When I was young, I often found myself on long car journeys with nothing to occupy me but a dog-eared UK road atlas. On the back page, there was a chart that showed the driving distance and journey time between pairs of major cities, and I would amuse myself figuring out which pair was furthest apart, and how long it takes to drive the length and breadth of the country.

Thanks to the new Distance Matrix service, which we are launching today, I can now relive these moments from my youth. The Distance Matrix service is a simple and efficient way to obtain the travel distance and time between many locations when you do not need the full route details for any individual pair. The below applications generates a distance matrix for walking from major London railway stations to several London landmarks. Roll your mouse over the matrix cells, or tap a cell, to see the relevant route.

The Distance Matrix service is also useful for sorting or filtering search results. For example, let’s say your Maps API application enables users to find nearby grocery stores and you want to present the results sorted by drive time. The locations are stored in a spatial database such as Google Fusion Tables, which can return all stores within a given straight line distance. Using the Distance Matrix service you only need one more query to obtain the drive time from the user's location to each of those stores in order to sort them accordingly.

The Distance Matrix service is available for use directly in the JavaScript Maps API as well as a web service returning JSON or XML. To get started, take a look at the Maps API services documentation, and the Distance Matrix API web service documentation. If you need further assistance, you can also discuss this service with fellow Maps API developers in the Maps API forums.