Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Apple Maps and 3D

So since I last posted here there has been a lot of to and fro about 3D in mobile maps.  I won't get into discussing the Google vs Apple rivalry as this has been well discussed elsewhere .  What I'm interested in is what is the long term value of 3D on maps.  Consider this video

it shows two 3D features I want to discuss here, 3D full color and 3D grey blocks.   I've discussed these issues before but its worth revisiting considering the new Apple example.   The full color IMHO is just showy, I can't see people pulling up this kind of imagery on their mobile devices whilst on the move, its just too visually complex.  I think everyone is going to play with it when they first see it on a device and then revert to something more visually simple when completing navigation tasks.

The more interesting feature is the 3D gray blocks.  Of course these aren't an Apple breakthrough, they've been on Google maps for a while:

Gray blocks for buildings (either of the Google or Apple variety) are visually simpler than full colored buildings and so may form an extra layer of information which users can use to navigate with.  I think the simple Apple gesture needed to make 3D snap on or off is good, this may make it something users can turn on when they are on the move and think it could help them navigate.

However, I think the buildings examples used in the demo had distinctive shapes so the grey blocks view looks very effective.  The feature may be much less use in a more normal city scape where building shapes are squarer and much more uniform.  So for navigating around a city, I'm yet to be convinced 3D gray blocks are a game changer.  And of course, out of the city, the feature really loses its value as buildings big enough to act as landmarks are much rarer.

More interesting is when navigation moves indoors, then shape of rooms and corridors becomes much more important for navigation IMHO.