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Maps Blog

November
02

Changes to Bird’s eye and 3D Maps

Update @ 3:30pm (11/2): Because there’s been confusion on this announcement, we want to make clear that this announcement was around the end of life of the 3D Map control. 3D Maps is not based on Silverlight and this announcement has nothing to do with our commitment to Silverlight. We continue to invest in Silverlight functionality, which delivers the richest possible experience for our users - specifically through our map apps that run in the browser on the PC and the Silverlight map control for Windows Phone 7 applications.

Update @ 8:45am (11/3): Added more detail on the difference between the previous Bird's eye that previously existed in the AJAX map control and the enhanced Bird's eye which will be made available for both our AJAX and Silverlight map experiences.

We reached out to customers to ask them what they wanted from the Bing maps imagery team and the answer was clear – more Bird’s eye, “everywhere”.

Today we announce progress on that front with the forthcoming release of a new “Bird’s eye” – the same 45-degree perspective, viewable from all 4 compass directions imagery that you love, enhanced to include seamless, smooth zooming/panning, life-like building models in urban centers and 3D-like terrain features.

The enhanced Bird’s eye previewed in our Silverlight client last year, but what makes this message special is that, very soon, it will be made available without plug-ins and at scale in through our AJAX map control (Bing.com/maps) but will still be available in our Silverlight experience (Bing.com/maps/explore). The image below is what you’ll currently see in Bird’s eye view in our Silverlight experience and what we’re bringing to the Bing.com/maps experience. The second image is an example of the current Bird's eye view in the AJAX map control (notice that this enhanced Bird's eye allows you to view Bird's eye at a higher altitude and has synthetic building models).

3deol_01 
                                              Enhanced Bird's eye currently only in Silverlight


                                                     Regular Bird's eye currently in AJAX

The upcoming release will be just the beginning. You can expect the experience to continue to evolve and get better as we strive to make Bird’s eye available everywhere.

With the new capabilities available in Bing.com/maps, the growth in Silverlight use, and the future with HTML5, we have also heard that customers want the best experience for the most people, without custom plugins for individual features. We have designed the new enhanced Bird’s eye with this in mind, so that the enhanced experience is accessible by users across technologies and platforms including desktop and mobile.

As a consequence, we are also announcing that we will be discontinuing investment in the Bing Maps 3D control Active-X plug-in. We don’t normally pre-announce new features or big changes; but, we want to make sure current 3D Maps users receive a heads-up rather than spring it unannounced. When the next update to Bing.com/maps is launched in the upcoming weeks, the option to view 3D Maps will be removed. Current users of 3D Maps can expect the following:

1. Permalinks and the desktop shortcut to 3D Maps will be redirected to Bing Maps with the nearest match to the experience they had in 3D. In most cases this will result only in a loss of the ability to navigate in full 3D.

2. After opening collections with 3D models, the 3D models will be represented as pushpins only. The models will not be accessible from collections.

3. Permalinks to tours will now open the collection manager with a message indicating discontinued support of the feature. Unfortunately there will no longer be an option to view the tour.

Sincerely,
Brian Hendricks
Bing Maps Product Manager

Comments

  • While we are glad to see rapid innovation in the Bing Maps area, the near-term discontinuation of the 3D (VE) plug-in is VERY disturbing.  Instead of this "heads-up" blog entry, Microsoft should formally deprecate the 3D API (i.e., mark as deprecated on the MSDN documentation ... msdn.microsoft.com/.../bb429547.aspx) and give developers 6-12 months to reimplement using the new APIs (which better support 3D and not require HTML5!).

    Microsoft has become somewhat amateurish in the lifecycle management of published APIs over the last few years.  The recent Muglia/Silverlight fiasco also indicates that you are becoming somewhat amateurish in your handling of entire development frameworks as well.  Please strive to be more "developers, developers, developers" focused ... it's the main "momentum" you have going for you right now.

  • What does this mean for the future of the Bing Maps Silverlight control beta Streetside and Bird's Eye modes?

  • Hi SWT.

    Thanks for posting. I need to clarify that this blog post is specific to the “3D” feature on our consumer http://www.bing.com/maps site. The developer API is being handled differently as we understand that our developers need additional time to transition to our new APIs and technology.  Last night we sent an email to all registered Bing Maps developers informing them of the changes to the 3D control and of our commitment to support the API until December 2011. I hope this commitment is along the lines of what you had in mind. We will be updating MSDN with this information soon.

  • Brian,

    I think some damage control is needed on twitter. See: twitter.com

    See: www.winrumors.com/microsoft-discontinues-bing-maps-silverlight-features-looks-to-html5

    People got the idea that Bing-on-SL is being deprecated,

    rather than the separate 3D-ActiveX.

    Vic

  • Specifically on Twitter, see maryjofoley's recent posts.

  • Thanks Vic. I was alerted to the WinRumors post. A "thanks" goes out to to those who posted a response on that article correcting some inaccuracies with the explicit and implicit implications of this announcement.

  • 1. This is 100% unacceptable. Microsoft  is now completely without any direct analogue to Google Earth. While Google had both Google Earth as a separate client and then added the proprietary GE plugin as an option in Google Maps for all browsers on all three desktop platforms (not to mention having standalone Google Earth apps for multiple mobile platforms for real 3D geo-browsing) Microsoft, after having Virtual Earth be in browser and for one desktop platform only since 2005 now cuts their own legs out from under themselves by throwing away even that one platform that had a true 3D control and goes 2D only.

    2. Support for the Enhanced Bird's Eye stitch should have been supported in Bing Maps AJAX last year anyway. Live Labs had already iterated multiple versions of Seadragon AJAX to make loading the tiles smooth.

    3. Last fall's update should have launched with support for Streetside, Enhanced Bird's Eye, and Photosynths inside the Direct3D control.

    4. You can talk to me all day long about how the Silverlight client uses 3D data for the building facades in Streetview, but because Silverlight has no real GPU support the low framerate makes the 3D very nearly imperceptible, even on some dual core CPUs. If Silverlight 5 has no real 3D support then all hope is lost for Bing Maps.

    5. You should not have deprecated the Direct 3D control until Silverlight's 3D capabilities had quality parity with the Direct3D control or Bing Maps AJAX was using WebGL to offer 3D parity with the former Direct3D control (ideally both true at the same time).

  • Need further zoom details about small towns.

  • Hi Brian,

    We've been using the Bing Maps ActiveX plug-in along with the InfoStrat map control (bingmapswpf.codeplex.com) to build some touch based map apps for the Surface and also for Windows 7, and we've been impressed with the features available.

    Just to clarify our understanding, are we right in thinking that

    - the plug-in will no longer support viewing in 3D?

    - it will be discontinued in Dec 2011?

    We're thinking that our options are:

    - Port all of our code over to Sliverlight and host the sliverlight control in a WPF window (which we've heard is currently kinda possible through some C++, or we've also heard rumours this functionality might be coming soon to .NET)

    - Switch over to using another mapping tool such as Google maps

    Any thoughts or confirmation/correction would be helpful.

    Thanks for your help,

    James

  • In addition, are we right in understanding that there will be no more true 3D capability in Bing maps at all; just the birdseye view?  Are there plans to implement 3D fly-throughs in silverlight at some point, or 3D structures as was possible with 3DVIA.

    Any information on your future road-map or planning would help us in choosing the most appropriate technology.

    Thanks,

    James

  • Brian, The technical choice on how to achieve close-range 3D like (bird's eye detail) imagery is up to Microsoft. I don't have a handle on what is technically better for MS to decide.

    But as a Product Manager, I want to remind you that you have a clear discriminating unique value proposition (UVP) here. Google only has street-view and poor quality non-oblique imagery. Please continue to support this in Silverlight and continue to exploit this UVP.

    For example, I want to be able to inject Silverlight controls (lines, widgets, and other elements) into a Birds Eye level detail and have them as interactive elements no matter which angle I view the scene. I also want them to interact with the 3D terrain (query line of sight, do visibility calculations, navigate based on 3D topography not just 2D). All of this information is there somewhere in the Bing Silverlight control or in map layers. If you expose this to developers we will make it clear why GOOGLE maps sucks. They truly can only display static overlays. Silverlight gives us interaction with the scene.

    Please continue to expand the reach of the SL control, this sort of deep interaction with the map is just not possible in AJAX and JS.

  • Brian, The technical choice on how to achieve close-range 3D like (bird's eye detail) imagery is up to Microsoft. I don't have a handle on what is technically better for MS to decide.

    But as a Product Manager, I want to remind you that you have a clear discriminating unique value proposition (UVP) here. Google only has street-view and poor quality non-oblique imagery. Please continue to support this in Silverlight and continue to exploit this UVP.

    For example, I want to be able to inject Silverlight controls (lines, widgets, and other elements) into a Birds Eye level detail and have them as interactive elements no matter which angle I view the scene. I also want them to interact with the 3D terrain (query line of sight, do visibility calculations, navigate based on 3D topography not just 2D). All of this information is there somewhere in the Bing Silverlight control or in map layers. If you expose this to developers we will make it clear why GOOGLE maps sucks. They truly can only display static overlays. Silverlight gives us interaction with the scene.

    Please continue to expand the reach of the SL control, this sort of deep interaction with the map is just not possible in AJAX and JS.

  • Here's an idea: Open source the 3D viewer! Just throw it up on Codeplex under MS-PL and let us take it from there.

  • I second the idea for open sourcing the 3D Viewer. We've got a heap of custom meshes, control interfaces, and data sources that we use with the 3D Viewer which is fast, works on lower end machines, and contains a lot of utility.

  • I can't say I'm surprised by the discontinuation announcement of the VE3D control, but I'm extremely disappointed nonetheless.  I, like a previous commenter has already mentioned, am using the Infostrat.VE library and the VE3D control for MS-Surface and Windows 7 touch-enabled applications.  I realize the majority of mainstream development these days is on the web, but unfortunately that means those of us still doing development on other MS platforms are left out in the cold for a decent mapping solution.