Google has just released an update to their Street View application - as viewed in the browser-based Google Maps (not yet available in Google Earth). The update has not yet been announced, and the new features may not be deployed to all country versions of Google Maps yet (based on reports I've had from GEB readers). When you move your mouse around the view in Street View, you now get a "3D" rectangle or ellipse "icon" indicating the position of a view available on the sides of buildings (and other structures), or to move you further down the street. When you double-click you get this animated motion-blur effect as you zoom over to that location and the camera turns to face the location you've picked (turns and tilts). This is a very intuitive, and much more useful, way to move within the Street View imagery. Plus, it looks really cool!
Here is a short video demo by Keir Clarke at GoogleMapsMania (I hope to replace this with a video soon which doesn't have compression artifacts during the zooming - sorry Keir! The actual views look much cooler than in this video. But, it will give you a taste):
Or, you can try the new Street View here.
Sometimes the view you pick may or may not accurately point the camera at the place you pick. Not sure if this is an algorithm problem or what. But, for the most part it gives a much more pleasing experience compared to the previous interface.
Keir Clarke points out this could mean new business opportunities within the Street View. We already have ways to search our maps, taking it to the dynamic level of moving your mouse over a view of a building and getting a hyperlink to the business will surely happen. It is inevitable. I believe the same thing will happen in Google Earth - in some ways it already happens - if you turn on the 3D Buildings layer you can often select a building and get information about the building. But, there needs to be even more database integration to tie the location of buildings to the businesses located there. I'm sure Google is working on it.