Google are rolling out yet more 'Labs' features this week. In the past, the term 'Labs Project' was an acronym for, 'we're really not sure about this, but we've spent a fair bit of time (and money on it) so seeing as we've come this far we might as well see what people think of it.' A cool, web 2.0 way of saying 'Beta'.
Now however, a lot of sites have bolt-on 'labs' full of great features that well surpass the efforts of old. Most 'labs' projects are genuinely innovative and having a 'lab' area to test them in makes perfect sense. As with most things on the web today, the Google lab is one of, if not the best.
Their latest lab project involves their other new toy, Google Maps. Maps are starting to take over the search results pages so it is probably only natural that they are looking to add new functionality to this area. The new 'lab' features for Google maps are being rolled out selectively, you'll know if you can access them if you see an icon like the one shown below when you are in Google Maps:
If you see this, then you are in business! If you don't, you're not going to be getting a Christmas card from Google this year!
If you click this link, all of the new features are shown, including, Drag 'n' Zoom (my personal favourite), Aerial Imagery - giving a new perspective for those cool aerial shots and a latitude / longitude tooltip - great for those who use sat nav a lot and need to know how to get somewhere off the beaten track. There's a screen shot of this in action below:
There is also the option to add a 'Beta' badge to the Google logo - I guess we're not completely away from the old days just yet...
Try the features out (if you can) and let us know what you think? If nothing else this is another indicator of Google's shift towards local search and its growing importance in the search results pages.