When you travel or look at a map of your city, you want it to be as accurate as possible. We do too. That’s why we’re launching our Ground Truth initiative in Hong Kong and parts of Russia (including Moscow, St. Petersburg, Novosibirsk, Yekaterinburg and large areas in the west of the country), so we can build a better map that helps you find what you need and get to where you’re going, quickly and easily. These new, updated maps for Russia and Hong Kong will automatically become part of your maps using our JavaScript, Android, and iOS APIs. Ground Truth enables us to update a country’s map at a faster pace to provide you with an up-to-date map that mirrors the real world as closely as possible. Ground Truth also makes it possible for you to contribute your local knowledge to the map and report any issues you find through the Report a Problem tool, so together we can build a better map.

The updated maps in Russia and Hong Kong now provide detailed walking paths in many well-known parks and landmarks, making navigating easier especially in pedestrian-friendly Hong Kong. For example, we’ve added walking paths to Victoria Park - you can now zig zag across the park as you please.

Russia is rather large, so many people prefer to travel by car. Today’s update is good news for drivers as well, as we’ve made big improvements to our road network. We’ve updated street names, turn restrictions and one-way streets as well as completely new maps in more than 50 towns across Russia. So the next time you drive to the city center for shopping, try out the Google Maps app for Android and iPhone to get there.

If you’d rather adventure by sea, we’ve also added ferry routes, down to the specific harbor of departure. For example, in the updated map of Hong Kong’s Central and Western District below you can see the ferry routes as well as nearby points of interests and transportation options.

The updated map also indicates places of interest more clearly, such as hospitals, national parks, and universities. For example, Moscow State University, Russia’s oldest and largest university, now has more detail with cleaner walking paths, named roads, and labels for different department buildings.

Whether you’re gazing at the awe-inspiring spirals of St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow or strolling through the bustling Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade in Hong Kong, Google Maps is here to help you see, explore, and discover the world!

To learn more about Ground Truth, check out this presentation from Google I/O 2013:

Posted by Kirill Levin, Google Maps Software Engineer

In today’s guest blog post, we hear from Monika Szymanski and Mike Kelley, of Orbitz' Android engineering team, who recently migrated from version 1 to version 2 of the Google Maps Android API

About Orbitz
Nearly 30% of hotel bookings are now made via mobile devices, fueled in part by the growth of the Android platform. The recently released 3rd-generation update of the Orbitz - Flights, Hotels, Cars app for Android brings major speed and ease of use improvements along with the latest Android UI design patterns to the app. The Google Maps Android API v2 is also integrated into the hotel search experience. Read on to find out how we did it, with tips and sample code along the way.

Migrating from v1 to v2 of the Google Maps Android API 
While users of the Android app will notice some changes to the app’s user interface for maps, the changes to our code are more than skin deep. New classes offered in v2 of the Google Maps Android API like MapFragment and SupportMapFragment, the transition from ItemizedOverlays to Markers, and the addition of a well-supported info window pattern have made including a Google Map in an Android app much easier.

Say hello to the 3rd generation of Orbitz - Flights, Hotels, Cars app, using the Google Maps Android API v2

Featuring Fragments 
Prior to the introduction of MapFragment (and SupportMapFragment)  in v2, we had to write a lot of code to manually show/hide the map view in our app. Only one instance of MapView could be created per activity, so we had to be overly clever about persisting that instance in our Activity. Lack of proper Fragment support was a common pain point for developers integrating v1 of the Google Maps Android API in their application.

When Fragment support was added in v2, we essentially rewrote our map code to take advantage of the new features of MapFragment. Let’s start by taking a look at our hotel results Activity layout:

You’ll notice that we’re not including the actual fragment in the layout - we add the Fragment at runtime, because we don’t want to pay the cost of the fragment transaction and add all the markers on the map, unless the user requests it.

You’ll also notice a bit of a hack at the bottom of the layout. In testing, we found that the MapFragment would leave a black box artifact on the screen on certain devices when the user opened our sliding menu navigation. Adding a simple FrameLayout “above” the map seems to fix the problem.

Extending SupportMapFragment makes it much easier to separate the map display logic from our Activity and list fragment. Our SupportMapFragment (and its inner classes) is responsible for:
  • Adding markers representing each available hotel 
  • Customizing the GoogleMap UI options 
  • Centering and animating the map to show the added markers 
  • Showing an info window when a marker is clicked 
  • Launching an Intent to display more details when an info window is clicked 
Next up, we’ll talk about how we add markers to the map and keep memory usage down.

Managing Markers 
One of the challenges in migrating from v1 to v2 of the Google Maps Android API was figuring out the best way to know which hotel’s info to display when a marker is tapped. To solve this, we place each <Marker, Hotel> pair in a HashMap when adding the markers to the Google Map. Later, we can use this HashMap to look up a marker's corresponding hotel info.

The code snippets below illustrate how we do it.

This HashMap allows us to look up the selected hotel in our InfoWindowAdapter, enabling us to display more information about it.

We place quite a few markers on the map for hotel results and each marker can have a different custom image. It's really easy to run out of memory and we were getting quite a few OutOfMemoryExceptions early in development. To manage memory more effectively, we made sure we didn't create a new new Bitmap and BitmapDescriptor for every marker placed on the map. We also ensured that the resources were recycled after we were done with them.

When the user taps a marker, we want to show more information; that’s where info windows come in handy. 

Introducing Info Windows 
Aside from simply viewing the location of all available hotels on a map, users are typically interested in the name and price of the hotel. The architecture for implementing this information window changed considerably from version 1 to version 2 of the Google Maps Android API. 

Before: Info windows in the Google Maps Android API v1
When using v1 of the Google Maps Android API, our app displayed more detailed hotel information in a custom info view when the user tapped on a hotel marker. That custom view displayed the hotel name and price, and triggered a custom animation when the view was added to the screen. This animation made it appear that the view was growing from inside the pin on the map.

We achieved this effect by setting the LayoutParams to MapView.LayoutParams.BOTTOM_CENTER and MapView.LayoutParams.MODE_MAP, which centered the bottom of the custom view on top of the tapped hotel marker.

With the introduction of the Google Maps Android API v2, MapView.LayoutParams.MODE_MAP was removed, so we explored alternative treatments to show the hotel information when the user clicks on a result. For our purposes, the best alternative was to use the new info window interface. 

After: Info windows in the Google Maps Android API v2
Creating an InfoWindowAdapter is pretty straightforward. The API provides two ways to populate the info window; either by supplying the contents of the info window (shown in the default window stylec) or creating a full View. Because we wanted to have a custom window background, loaded from a 9-patch, we opted to build a complete View for the info window by overriding the getInfoContents() method to return null, and by returning a custom View from getInfoWindow().

Here’s a sample of our code:

We could further simplify this code by having our HotelView take a Hotel model as a parameter in the constructor. 

A caveat with info windows is that even though they are populated by the returned View, the info window is not treated like a *live* View object. The system will call the view’s draw() method only once, then use that cached rendering as the user continues to interact with the map. Our existing animation didn’t work in the Google Maps Android API v2, but we decided to be consistent with the platform and remove the animation rather than try to hack around this limitation.

We <3 Google Maps Android API v2
Upgrading from version 1 to version 2 of the Google Maps Android API was virtually painless and fun to do! The introduction of MapFragment helped us separate the map display logic from the rest of the code and made code reuse much easier. Using custom info views was very straightforward with the new info window interface. We look forward to adding even more Google Map features to our app.

Posted by Monica Tran, Maps Developer Marketing

Monika Szymanski is a Lead Engineer on the Android team at Orbitz, where she works on apps that are friendly, fast, and easy to use. In her free time, she enjoys outdoors, running, red wine, and anything chocolate.

Mike Kelley is a Software Engineer at Orbitz, where he works on Android travel tools to help people travel smarter. He's a Michigan grad, transportation and technology enthusiast and craft beer buff. Some of Mike's ideas and projects live online at

Orbitz Worldwide (NYSE: OWW) is a leading global online travel company that uses innovative technology to enable leisure and business travelers to search for, plan and book a broad range of travel products and services including airline tickets, hotels, car rentals, cruises, and vacation packages. Orbitz Worldwide owns a portfolio of consumer brands that includes Orbitz, CheapTickets, ebookers, and HotelClub. Also within the Orbitz Worldwide family, Orbitz Partner Network delivers private label travel solutions to a broad range of partners including many of the world's largest airlines, and Orbitz for Business delivers managed corporate travel solutions for corporations.

It’s Friday again, and you’ve survived another week. Time for some mapping!

I’ve got another video for you! Yesterday I released a Google Maps Shortcuts episode on indoor maps in the Google Maps SDK for iOS. Check it out:

I’ve also put together this playlist for iOS Developers using our SDK.

For JavaScript developers, Emily Bennett is doing a series of tutorials on Webdesigntuts+ on using the Google Maps API. Emily is the creator of the Portsmouth History Photo Map which we featured as a Map of the Week. She’s got three tutorials up, and one more on the way. Nice work Emily!

That’s all for this week. Have a great weekend and happy mapping!

Posted by Mano Marks, Maps Developer Relations Team

Interesting Maps API Components used: Geometry Library, KMLLayer, Styled Maps, Polylines, InfoWindows, Symbols, Markers

This week we are featuring a sample app by the French web development house Medusis. They have put together a custom directions application that guides you between Paris metro stations. It is available in both French and English. It is a beautiful app that uses several interesting features of the Maps API, some of which may not be immediately obvious.

The map is centered, naturally, on the city of Paris. The Paris Metro network is shown using a KMLLayer object. That way they can load in a large amount of unchanging data. You’ll also notice that the base map is styled to mute it to emphasize the metro lines, while preserving access to the Google base map data.

To find directions you can either use the drop down boxes in the top left or simply click on the stations. Notice that a couple of things happen. The KMLLayer that loaded the original layers switches to a grayscale KML file, to allow the use of Polylines to emphasize only the routes needed.

Each station also gets an InfoWindow that has the icons of the Metro lines serving that station. Each trip can be made of more than one Metro line. The portion of the line used in a particular trip is highlighted by using a Polyline. Markers for hubs and the origin and destination are highlighted using a Circle Symbol.

The map uses its own algorithm to compute the best route, using our Geometry Library to calculate distances to find the correct route.

This is a great demonstration piece on using the Google Maps API to show custom data. Well done Medusis.

Posted by Mano Marks, Maps Developer Relations Team

Another week down, and time for another Fab Friday.

First up this week, I’ve got a video for you. Don’t I always have a video for you? The inimitable Brett Morgan filmed another Maps Shortcut episode, Custom Info Windows in the Google Maps SDK for iOS. Check it out:

Next I have a map for you. August 1st was Swiss National Day, and to celebrate, we have a timeline of when the cantons joined the Confederation.

This timeline is brought to us by Vasile Cotovanu, who also created the Swiss Cantons mercator puzzle, and more. And as usual, all his code is over on Github.

Finally, for you do-gooders, there’s a great event coming up. Apply now for the 2013 Geo for Good User Summit:

Calling all mapping specialists who use their powers for environmental and social good! Apply now for this annual hands-on technical workshop hosted by the Google Earth Outreach team from Nov 12-15 at the Google headquarters in Mountain View, CA:

That’s all for this week. Have a great weekend, and happy mapping!

Posted by Mano Marks, Maps Developer Relations Team