If you're a fan of cars and have access to the Internet, you've no doubt heard of Google Street View, which lets you see the street-level image of many urban and suburban locations--hugely useful in finding your way with their mapping service. But now Microsoft is planning an over-the-top comeback in the form video-assisted directions that employ some of the same imaging techniques in a new way.
Both Google and Microsoft systems rely on panoramic images taken by vehicles traveling the routes covered. But rather than display still images as Google does, the not-yet-live Microsoft Videomap system uses smart cropping and animation to turn those images into an annotated video that lets you have a look at the route in motion before you ever hit the road.
That's a pretty big improvement over a list of text directions, or even over still images of landmarks along the way, and Microsoft is betting it'll be important enough to a lot of folks to help them in their never-ending battle against Google. By employing the viewer's visual memory ahead of time, the system could deliver much more effective directions, even if all they have once in the car is a list of instructions.
The system, originally developed with researchers from Germany's University of Konstanz, is already being developed by Microsoft, and is demonstrated in the video below.