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Google Maps For Mobile Gets Walking Navigation

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You've probably seen them: pedestrians so engrossed by what they see on the screens of their mobile phones that they can't manage to travel along sidewalks in a straight line, thereby forcing passersby to deviate from their own paths to avoid a collision.

Well, get ready to dodge more of these meandering menaces because Google has introduced a beta Walking Navigation service for users of Android phones as part of Google Maps for mobile 4.5.

Google describes the service as the "perfect marriage" of turn-by-turn navigation and walking directions, in that the service plots the most direct route from the user to the destination via pedestrian pathways.

Google thoughtfully vibrates the user's phone to cue the user to make a turn, which is probably the second best option for collision avoidance after actually understanding where one is in the world.

The company anticipates the possible desire for awareness of one's surroundings in its acknowledgement that users might want to go out on a limb and maneuver with some measure of autonomy. "You can even turn off voice guidance and just use these [vibration] notifications while soaking in the sights and sounds around you," note Google engineers Andrey Ulanov and Kevin Law in a blog post.

Doing so may prevent injury. Ulanov and Law urge those navigating using Google Maps to pay attention and to "use good judgment about routes that can't be walked."

Navigating via Google Maps for mobile has also been made easier through the availability of Street View smart navigation -- the point-and-click mode of traversing Street View images introduced last summer -- on mobile devices.

In addition, Google has added a new Google Maps search bar to Google Maps for mobile in order to facilitate place-related interaction.

Google Maps for mobile and Street View smart navigation can be downloaded separately from the Android Market. Android 1.6 or greater is required.