Nokia launches Ovi Maps 3D beta, challenges Google Earth as your virtual tour guide of choice

Still searching for today's internet time sink? Then look no further than Nokia's just launched beta version of Ovi Maps 3D. Thanks to some software wizardry and mysterious mapping know-how, it's now able to display cities in a new 3D view that you're able to zoom in and around to your heart's content. You can also do the same thing in Google Earth's 3D view, of course, but Nokia just might have a leg up in some respects. Unfortunately, it's still staying mum on exactly how it all works, but you can dive right in and start exploring for yourself at the link below.

[Thanks to everyone who sent this in]

Update: Nokia's now finally gotten official with this on its blog, and revealed that C3 is responsible for the impressive 3D mapping technology. Hit up the links below for some additional details, and head on past the break for a quick video demo if you need a bit of incentive to install the necessary plug-in.

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Nokia launches photorealistic 3D models of metropolitan areas for Ovi Maps
Published April 19, 2011
- Unparalleled degree of 3D realism and scale helps people get a feel for places before they get there
- Major step in Nokia's plans to bridge real and virtual worlds

Espoo, Finland - Nokia today announced photorealistic 3D models of metropolitan areas for the web version of Ovi Maps. This immersive and free feature adds a new dimension to the Ovi Maps experience and enables people to explore places in a completely different way.

Introduced at the Where 2.0 conference in Santa Clara, California, Nokia's 3D offering is the most realistic available and goes beyond rendering limited areas and buildings by making entire cities, including suburbs, available for exploration.

Starting with a bird's-eye view, people can scale up and down and move around objects such as buildings and trees from their desktop, experiencing a virtual but super realistic perspective of new places. Road-level imagery completes the experience with a detailed 360-degree panoramic view of streets.

With the beta service featuring 20 metropolitan areas, the number of photorealistic 3D models will increase over time. The road-level imagery is now available for five cities, Copenhagen, Helsinki, London, Oslo and San Francisco.

With the goal of bridging the real and virtual worlds on both mobile and web, Nokia's Ovi Maps for mobile covers 180 countries, nearly 100 of them navigable in 53 languages. Ovi Maps on the web covers 180 countries, 93 of them navigable, in 29 languages.

"Ovi Maps' photorealistic 3D models of metropolitan areas are a significant step towards our vision of bridging the real and virtual world, with location-based services being the glue," said Michael Halbherr, senior vice president, Nokia.

"With Ovi Maps on mobile, Nokia has shown its ability to transform a useful feature into a mass market experience that lays the foundation for innovation in location-based services beyond traditional routing benefits. With its efforts to expand the service to the web, Nokia is proving that it offers a holistic service," said Daryl Chiam, Principal Analyst, Canalys.

Nokia's photorealistic 3D models of metropolitan areas initially include:
- Barcelona
- Boston
- Chicago
- London
- Copenhagen
- Florence
- Helsinki
- Las Vegas
- Los Angeles
- Madrid
- Miami
- Milan
- New York
- Oslo
- Prague
- San Francisco
- Stockholm
- Toronto
- Venice
- Vienna