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Bing Maps Previews with 3D photo-quality maps of world cities

Microsoft today launched a preview of its not-quite-ready-for-primetime Bing Maps app for Windows 8.1.

The first-look edition of Bing Maps, available now for free download in the Windows Store, highlights high-quality imagery of more than 70 worldwide cities.

"With the Bing Maps Preview you're in charge. You can swoop in, going from a Superman to a Clark Kent-like view; from mountaintop to main-street, it is so vivid you feel like you're there," Microsoft wrote in a blog entry.

Most notably, the new application boasts 3D road and aerial coverage, assembled with the help of "world builders" from the video game industry and expert photogrammetrists, using high-definition aerial cameras.

"With advances in Windows, in computing hardware and our ability to capture, process and render imagery, our automated pipeline is capable of pushing pixels from a plane to the app in a matter of weeks," the development team said. Bing has already processed more than 121 trillion pixels to date, according to Microsoft.

Redmond's technology allows for the map's landscape to adapt as you touch, tilt, tap, and turn it. Don't worry about getting lost in the landscape—you can adjust the direction by clicking the orientation and tilt controls on the left side of the screen.

The new preview app works on touchscreen and desktop devices, making it easy to plan a route from your home PC, and then check out the local watering holes on the go with a tablet. Bing Maps also takes advantage of the Windows 8.1 system's unique features, like Snapview, Windows notification, and Live Tile.

But Bing Maps is about more than exploring the world from the comfort of your couch. "It's about getting stuff done," the team said. "So we've enabled you to get answers and take action directly within the one app."

Explore places of interest, landmarks, and routes by clicking on an item to see address details, or switch to Streetside viewing in select areas for a closer look.

Driving and transit directions are also available. Looking for a specific spot on your vacation in Italy? Use the available search box to find a romantic restaurant and a route overlay.

Microsoft is also introducing features like traffic notifications on favourite routes, Local Scouts to find nearby places, and even OpenTable integration for quick reservations.

In June, Redmond added its largest-ever batch of Bird's Eye imagery to Bing Maps—nearly 270 terabytes of data, or the equivalent of 100,000 DVDs. Captured at a 45-degree angle, photos provide more depth and a three-dimensional look.