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Microsoft adds new dimension to Live Maps

The 3D views can be used to fly amongst the buildings of Bristol. Quality can be turned down to aid performance

Microsoft has extended its Windows Live Maps service by adding new 3D capabilities to major UK cities. Any web user can now log in to the service and in addition to viewing maps, aerial and bird's-eye view photos, you can now view Bristol, Cardiff, Gloucester, Plymouth and Wolverhampton in 3D.

The new 3D features on the site require a small installation before they can be accessed. But once in, you are able to virtually fly around the cities in 3D to get a more realistic view of your target area.

Microsoft also added traffic condition overlays which can be accessed when planning a journey on the site, and the businesses featured in the maps are now linked up to ratings and reviews. These features are linked into the Windows Live Search engine.

While most of these features are already available on rival services from the likes of Google and Yahoo , the 3D view is something that Microsoft has done differently to the others. It uses the Vexcel mapping software that it bought last year.

As part of the update, 3D maps were also released for a number of cities worldwide including San Diego and Portland.