Microsoft Previews What’s Next for Bing Maps

Microsoft demonstrated new and experimental features that it proposes adding to Bing Maps, the mapping component of its search engine technology, at the Technology, Entertainment, Design 2010 (TED2010) conference in Long Beach, Calif. Thursday.

The new and proposed features are a follow on to announcements Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) made regarding Bing Maps and what the company calls “spatial search” in December.

At TED, Blaise Aguera y Arcas, Bing Maps architect, showed off a technology preview of Microsoft’s Streetside Photos application that ties geographical mapping capabilities with photos from Flickr.

“You’re now able to see what that club looks like at night (is it really THAT scary?), see if you’re really going to get a good sunset at that B&B you’re looking to book, or check out the crowds on a Saturday morning at Pike Place Market in Seattle or get a view of the same market from decades prior,” said a post on the Bing Community blog by the Bing Maps team.

Aguera y Arcas also demonstrated integration between Bing Maps and Microsoft Research’s World Wide Telescope that lets users pan up to the night sky to see which constellations are in view, for instance.

Another view: indoor panoramas

Another technology that’s still in the research stage Microsoft calls “indoor panoramas.” These will tie photos of interiors into Bing Maps, and ultimately with Streetside Photos.

“This will provide an experience identical to Streetside, but won’t be limited to places you can take a vehicle. Whether you’re exploring Seattle’s Pike Place Market, or your favorite theme park, Bing Maps will give you the most immersive experience of the place,” the blog post said.

Finally, Aguera y Arcas showed off video overlay technology.

“[He] demonstrated a preview of our new video overlay technology, which enables real-time video to be overlaid seamlessly on street-level imagery, adding another dimension to the mapping experience,” the blog post continued.

Although video overlays are not yet available to the public, the post said to “stay tuned.” The target for implementing video overlays is sometime in the next year.

So where to next?

“Our next step is to continue to augment the Spatial Search experience with these types of data. The potential for ‘augmenting’ your physical world with data pulled from everywhere, in real-time, and in context is exciting,” the blog post added.

Microsoft has been striving to catch up to Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) ever since it launched Bing in early June, largely by continuously adding new features.

For example, in July the company added ties to Microsoft’s free Hotmail e-mail service and, two months later, added integration of its Silverlight streaming media with Bing maps and photos. A month after that, in October, Microsoft signed an agreement to let Bing users pull in Twitter updates in real time.

However, the software giant wasn’t done there. In November, Microsoft also added support for mathematical models via a deal with search startup WolframAlpha.

Then, in December, Microsoft previewed Streetside, a direct competitor to Google’s Street View.

To some extent, Microsoft’s frequent upgrading of Bing’s features may be helping it gain market share in the search engine arena.

In January, Bing broke through the 11 percent market share barrier in the eighth month of continuous market gains since it launched, according to Web analytics firm comScore (NASDAQ: SCOR).

However, Google is hardly in danger of losing its dominant position; it’s continued to maintain a big lead and for January racked up a 65.4 percent share.

Stuart J. Johnston is a contributing writer at, the news service of, the network for technology professionals.

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