Do We Need Maps in 3D?

The basic idea of a map is that it uses a series of symbols combined to represent the land we live in.

Google Mobile Maps 5.0 for Android will have 3D interaction.

(more infor on the Google Mobile Blog)

Granted a street map does not provide height elements in the way contours are provided on an OS Explorer or Landranger map, but contours provide more than height information. They provide us with information on gradient and land shape and formation and these are key to route planning.

In New York, as an example, you can rarely tell how tall a building is when standing next to it, so the height will only be useful when at a distance. So this helps with orientation rather planned direction and with an inbuilt compass a simpler tool is already provided in this application.

Map makers have to weigh up the complexity and volume of data they provide with the ease at which this data can be transformed into usable information in the brain.

My questions are

  1. If you can read a street map, how much additional information with the 3D elements provide and will they hinder your map reading.
  2. If you can’t read a street map how much easier is it to navigate with the building superimposed? Is learning to read a map easier when there are fewer items requiring your attention?

Let me know what you think.