Late last month, at its “Searchification” event, Microsoft introduced a wide range of search enhancements and improvements. The company also said there would be additional updates to follow. Those are now rolling out and include feature and content enhancements for maps, local, and mobile services. The biggest news is the introduction of a new voice search product called “Live Search 411,” built on Tellme’s content and voice capabilities. In addition to local business listings, the service provides movie show times, weather, and airlines information.
We haven’t had a chance to test drive or play with any of these new features, but here is the list from the official Microsoft press release: Maps and Directions
• Innovative driving directions. The new Live Search offers more accurate and easy-to-use driving directions, including dynamic rerouting of directions based on real-time traffic information, one-click directions that allow drivers to get only essential directions to their destination with no starting point needed, and inline hints that tell drivers if they have gone too far based on local landmarks. Combined with new, one-page printing, these new enhancements have taken driving directions to the next level.
• Innovative visualization and 3-D. Coverage of bird’s-eye and 3-D imagery has been increased to cover 80 percent of the U.S. population. In addition, nearly 200 complete cities are available in 3-D, and customers can now combine views of 3-D imagery with Live Search’s unique 45-degree bird’s-eye images, giving a complete and detailed geolocation experience. In addition, people who use Live Search Maps can create and share their own 3-D models of buildings through an alliance with Dassault Systemes.
• Innovative local content index including user-generated content. The new local search capabilities in Live Search include not only a broad set of expert sources but also broad access to user-generated content from Live Search and from across the entire Web, through searchable user-created collections and Keyhole Markup Language (KML) support.
• Virtual Earth platform updates. The Virtual Earth™ platform is the underlying technology behind well over 1,000 partner mapping solutions as well as Live Search Maps. Updates in version 6.0 of Virtual Earth include multipoint trip routing; enhanced geocoding that combines results for multiple geocoders; rooftop geocoding, which provides more precise geocoding results; map control support for Safari 2.0; and the release of MapCruncher beta, making it easier to publish maps overlaid in an application using the Virtual Earth map control. More details on the Virtual Earth platform can be found at http://dev.live.com/virtualearth.
• Live Search for Windows Mobile with voice input. The updated Live Search for Windows Mobile® 5.0 and 6.0 will be available for download for free on Tuesday, Oct. 16, and now includes voice input (beta version), gas prices, and hours of operation for businesses. The service can also utilize Global Positioning System (GPS) data on GPS-enabled phones to provide location-aware local search for customers.
• Live Search 411. Jointly developed with Tellme Networks Inc., acquired by Microsoft earlier this year, a new toll-free number will be available for anyone using any kind of phone to access the power of Live Search. Users can simply dial (800) CALL-411 (800-225-5411) and say the city and state, then ask for the business or business category to hear a list of options. Users say “Connect me,” to instantly connect to the business. Cell phone users can ask for a text message with a link to a map of the business.
• Live Search for use with BlackBerry® Devices. Live Search designed for use with BlackBerry devices is in beta and will be available for download for free on Tuesday, Oct. 16. It is a new offering designed for use on BlackBerry OS 4.0.2 or later phones, and customers with GPS-enabled phones can use location awareness to enhance their searches.
Of note here is the expansion of 3-D coverage, combination of Birds Eye and 3-D views, and the introduction of user generated content, including the use of Google’s KML (now a standard). Regarding the mobile developments, there’s more available information at LiveSearchMobile.