[Mano Marks is away for the holidays, so this week Paul Saxman shares the highlights of the week in this Fab Friday post.]

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On Tuesday, a team of Google engineers launched the Google Santa Tracker site along with a Chrome extension and an Android app. You can visit the site now to play Santa approved games and hunt for some other fun experiences, but be sure to check out the site and Android app on Christmas Eve to track Santa with Google Maps and Google Earth.

The Google Santa Tracker site is pure HTML5 and uses the Google Maps JavaScript API.  The Android app uses the recently released Google Maps Android API v2, so be sure to try out Santa tracking in vector-based 3D!

Late last week, I joined Ankur Kotwal and Tony Chan on their ADL+ show to discuss how to get started with the Google Maps Android API v2.  We covered the basics of how to get a Google Maps API key, configuring an app’s manifest, controlling the map camera, and using markers and info windows.  The slides for the show, which include plenty of code snippets, were posted separately.

If you’re craving even more code, support for the Google Maps Android API v2 was recently added to the the open source My Tracks app for Android.  My Tracks uses many of the key features of the API, including markers, camera events, and polylines.  If you’re interested in the new API, the MyTracksMapFragment class is a great place to start browsing the code.

Also in the news, Red de Juderías de España has built a website for exploring more than 500 Jewish heritage landmarks in Spain.  The interactive map on the site uses the Google Maps JS API and includes custom map styling, overlays, and Street View panoramas.  The site is a great inspiration to learn more about Spain’s Jewish history, and for building websites with beautiful interactive maps.

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Posted by Paul Saxman, Google Maps Developer Advocate and Adjunct Santa Helper

Map of the Week: Skyvi
Why we like it: Skyvi uses the Google Places API to help users find nearby points of interest while on the go.  Users simply speak their request into their Android phone while Skyvi is running to get voice guided, turn-by-turn directions from the Google Maps for Android app.

[Editor’s note: For this week’s “Map of the Week” post, we’ve asked Sarah Montgomery of Blue Tornado to write a guest blog post about how her team used the Google Maps APIs to create Skyvi.  - Paul Saxman]

Skyvi is a fast voice application for Android that lets you perform various tasks by voice input alone! Whether you want to find somewhere to eat or update your social network status, you can get things done by speaking to your phone.

Users can voice a command to find a point of interest such as 'find an Italian restaurant' or 'where can I get a haircut'. Skyvi then retrieves the user’s current GPS coordinates from the Android platform and queries the Google Places API with the search keywords and coordinates. The Google Places API returns a list of locations for the user to select from. Upon choosing a location, Skyvi uses an Android Intent to pass the GPS coordinates to Google Maps Navigation, which then directs the user along the route.

As a result, users are able to discover a point of interest and get seamlessly navigated there just by speaking commands. We are excited that, by incorporating the Google Places API into our app, our users no longer need to handle their phones or GPS devices while they drive.

It was quick and easy to integrate the Google Places API into our app, taking only a couple of hours. Google Maps saved us from investing in base map data, and the API allows us to suggest relevant search results based on Google's data, which is already used by millions of people.

Posted by Paul Saxman, Google Maps Developer Relations Team

Author PhotoWow, miss a week a whole lot happens! Last week we launched

This week we also announced the Google Maps on iOS and the Google Maps SDK for iOS.

There were also two Google Maps Developers Live events. Last week, Chris Broadfoot sat down with the Places API team, Justin Chu, Marcelo Camelo, and Andrew Bennetts, to talk about Radar Search and Photos. Check it out:

And Tuesday, Paul Saxman and I discussed basic and advanced techniques for loading data into a Google Map using JSON and Esri Shapefiles, creating map visualizations for tweaking data, and exporting data once you're happy with it.

The code from my demo is in our Google Code repository here. Paul will post his code soon.

Posted by Mano Marks, Google Maps Developer Relations team


Alongside the newly designed Google Maps for iPhone, we’re also excited to announce the Google Maps SDK for iOS. With the Google Maps SDK for iOS, developers can feature Google maps in their applications on the iPod Touch, iPhone, and iPad. Also, the SDK makes it simple to link to Google Maps for iPhone from inside your app, enabling your users to easily search and get directions.

The SDK features vector-based maps that load quickly, allowing users to easily navigate 2D and 3D views, rotating and tilting the map with simple gestures inside your app. Developers can also change the Google maps view to include information such as traffic conditions, and control camera positions in 3D. Access to API keys is being progressively rolled out to developers who register interest.

Incorporate a Google map into your app with 3D camera position, markers and infowindows.

Any iOS app can also launch the Google Maps for iPhone app using a URL scheme. This allows Google Maps for iPhone to be launched to complete a search, show a map or Street View imagery, or to see and navigate walking, driving and transit directions easily.

Clicking on the “Directions to here” button in an app shows directions in Google Maps for iPhone, with walking, transit or driving.

Our goal is to provide you with the right tools to build the best mapping experiences across platforms including Android, Web, and now iOS.

To get started, take a look at our SDK documentation, including the URL scheme, and register interest in an API key for embeddable maps in your app.

Map of the Week: London Typographica
Why we like it: London Typographica showcases crowdsourced images of lettering and typefaces around London. It uses Styled Maps to both provide a clean background to display their markers and to allow people to navigate to areas they may want to explore.

Markers drop onto the map using Marker animation, the movement capturing our attention. Clicking on a marker doesn’t open an InfoWindow, but rather brings in a side panel that overlays on top of the left side of the map.

London Typographica is an excellent way for type and lettering enthusiasts to explore London and find their way around, and a great way to use the Google Maps API.

Posted by Mano Marks, Maps Developer Relations

At least I think that’s how the saying goes. Today, we are announcing two new features for the Google Places API that can add some visual pop to your applications: Place Photos and Radar Search.

Place Photos

Photos are one of the most highly requested features from our developers, and we’re confident that the extensive inventory from our Google+ Local pages will suit developers’ local photo needs. To include your own photos in the API, please upload them to the place’s Google+ Page. With Place Photos, each Place Search response will include a reference to a photo, and each Place Details response will include up to 10. The photo fields contain various metadata, as well as a reference that are used to retrieve the photo via the photos service. We also offer a built-in resizing functionality, so your requests can specify the photo’s maximum width and height.

Radar Search

In addition to Place Photos, we wanted to give developers easier access to the comprehensive database underlying the Places API; and what better way to showcase our Place data than by allowing bigger result sets? With Radar Search, you can access up to 200 locations and Place References with one query, no paging needed, giving you more data to play with.

Give this example a try to find the best areas in Sydney for restaurants with nice views, or where to shop for clothes in Paris - this is where the name came from, at a high zoom level, it resembles a radar image. We look forward to seeing even more beautiful visualizations from developers.

The Places API team always appreciates developer feedback so we encourage you to continue requesting additional features, or reporting any problems you find, using the Google Maps API Issue Tracker. Our Stack Overflow community is also a great resource for any technical questions.

Posted by Khang Tran, Google Places API Engineer

More than 800,000 web sites use the Google Maps API to create compelling location-rich applications, including travel guides, real estate portals, engaging data visualizations, and many more.  To help ensure that the maps behind these applications are best in class, the Google Maps team works constantly to ensure that our geographic data is comprehensive and accurate. As part of this ongoing effort, we’re happy to announce we’ve just released updated maps for 10 countries and regions in Europe: Andorra, Bulgaria, Estonia, Gibraltar, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain. These new maps will appear immediately on all Google Maps API sites, with no code changes required.

Today’s update is part of a project called Ground Truth that began in 2008. Through this initiative, we acquire high-quality map data from authoritative sources around the world and then apply a mix of advanced algorithms, supplemental data (including satellite, aerial and Street View imagery), and human input to create a map that corresponds as closely as possible to the real-world facts that you’d find if you were to visit that location.

For example, this update adds a new 70-km section of Bulgaria’s Trakiya motorway, which opened recently to drivers but hasn’t been reflected on most maps of the region until now.

In addition to updating our map data, we’ve also enabled the “Report a problem” tool in the API for each of the 40+ countries where this tool is available on the consumer version of Google Maps.  Through this tool, any visitor to a Google Maps API V3 site can now submit corrections and feedback directly to Google, just as they might on  We review and verify all user feedback and then publish any appropriate corrections -- often within just a few minutes or hours of our review.  The launch of the “Report a problem” tool in the Maps API allows the Google Maps team to increase the accuracy of our maps -- and provide quick and targeted updates to both developers and consumers -- without requiring any work from the owners of sites that use our API.  

We hope these more comprehensive and accurate maps of Europe will enable Google Maps API developers to further enhance their applications (or create entirely new ones) from Barcelona and Budapest to Bratislava and beyond!

Posted by Ken Hoetmer, Google Maps API Product Manager

(Cross posted on Google Maps Lat Long Blog

Today we’re launching an update to the Google Maps Android API, which gives developers the ability to use Google’s comprehensive, accurate and useful maps to build beautiful Android apps. The updated API is easy to use and features vector-based maps that load quickly and enables users to easily navigate 2D and 3D views, and tilt and rotate the map with simple gestures.

With the new version of the Google Maps Android API, developers can utilize Google Maps to its fullest. We’ve incorporated many of the highly-requested features developers want, such as:
  • More dynamic and flexible UI designs for large screen Android devices, such as tablets, using Android Fragments
  • Adding more Google Maps layers in their apps including satellite, hybrid, terrain, traffic and now indoor maps for many major airports and shopping centers
  • The ability to create markers and info windows with less code
Some of our favorite apps already use Google Maps, such as Trulia, Expedia Hotels and FlightTrack. Soon, when you upgrade to the latest version of these apps, you’ll experience the new API and maps as rich as those in Google Maps for Android.

With the latest Google Maps Android API, Trulia Android app users can search for a place to buy or rent in 3D.

To hear from these developers about their apps and migration to the new version of the API, check out the following Google Developers Live video below.

More than 800,000 sites around the world use our mapping APIs to create amazing and useful apps. We hope you enjoy using this new addition to the Google Maps API family and building mapping experiences that were never before possible on a mobile device.

To get started, follow the Google Maps Android API v2 documentation and reach out to the developer community if you have questions on building your app with this API.