Google Maps WebGL

Google Maps released a new beta feature today that uses the power of Web Graphics Library (WebGL) to add hardware-accelerated visuals when viewing from a web browser — without having to download additional plugins.

As demonstrated in the video embedded below, the Google Maps experience with WebGL is far more in tune with the highly detailed visuals found in the company’s Google Earth application.

WebGL also adds faster access to Google Map features like Street View, 45-degree satellite views of some locations and smoother angle rotations. Previously, sophisticated 3D graphics, such as those provided by WebGL integration, were typically only possible on  desktop applications that required a manual installation.

“WebGL ushers in a whole new generation of graphics on the web, and with that, we can begin to redefine the expectations of an online map,” Google Maps Vice President Brian McClendon wrote in a blog post.

Anyone that has a compatible video card and uses a supported web browser (like Google’s Chrome 14 or the latest Firefox Beta) can check out the Google MapsGL beta feature. To enable it, you just need to visit Google Maps and click the notification at the bottom left portion of the screen.