updated 08:15 am EDT, Mon October 3, 2011
Google Maps enhanced with new aerial view
Google Maps has been enhanced with a new Helicopter View. The new function gives users the opportunity to preview their trip in a 3D visualization. The feature uses the Google Earth browser plug-in to give users a top-down aerial view of the planned route as though seen from a helicopter flying about the route.
To preview a planned trip, users just need to click on the new 3D button that appears, where available, next to the suggested directions. Hit play, and the map switches to Earth view and automatically starts 'flying' along the recommended route.
The fly-over can be paused at any time by clicking anywhere in the 3D view or on the pause button in the lower left of the map. While the flight is paused, users can explore the surrounding area in 3D by clicking and dragging the map. When ready to resume the flight, users click on the play button in the lower left of the 3D view.
2D mode can be re-selected at any time by clicking on a "2D" button in the left of panel.