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Mall of America in Minneapolis before and after, with a floor selector
Mall of America in Minneapolis before and after, with a floor selector

I may originally hail from New Jersey, but I still can't find my way around a mall. Standing in front of one of those big, inscrutable “You are here” signs, I scratch my head in confusion and invariably wander off in the opposite direction of where I want to go. “You are here.” Yeah, but where is “here?” The answer to that question forms part of the thinking behind the newly released Google Maps 6.0 for Android.

Available via the Android Market, the latest version of Google Maps charts the internal landscapes of the malls, department stores and airports that partner and share their floor plans with Google. The familiar “blue dot” we all know and love from the previous version of Google Maps will still indicate one's location within a structure.

Users can tilt and twist the screen to interact with the 3-D map and when they move from one floor to another in a multi-floor building, the Google Maps interface will automatically show which floor they are on. Points of interest will also show up on the screen, such as ATMS, restrooms and airport gates.

Basically, according to the official Google blog, the indoor map function works the same way as it does for outdoor spaces, “but fine tuned for indoors.”

According to Google, it's already partnered with large retailers, transit hubs and airports in the States and Japan, including the Mall of America, The Home Depot, certain Macy's and Bloomingdale's locations, Chicago O'Hare International Airport, Narita International Airport and others.

It's not a totally new concept – Bing Maps already has a similar function for mobile – but it is an important move for Google because it brings Google's indoor map functionality to the popular Android platform, said technology business blog GigaOM. GigaOM makes another good point: Apple's iOS doesn't have indoor mapping. So there.

If retailers opt in and send in their floor plans – which Google encourages them to do – the advertising opportunities are ripe. For example, retailers and marketers alike could work with Google to superimpose daily deals over or beside the maps, said eWeek.com. Or how about integrating the maps with Google's search function to allow users to seek items within particular store locations? There are definite possibilities.

But what's the buzz on this? Mostly snarky to be honest. One commenter on an article on the British news site Retail Gazette said: “Considering GPS doesn't work indoors, and 3G (should it actually be available in your area) isn't much better, good luck with this one.” Another commenter on the Digital Buzz blog quipped: “Great for robbers, kidnappers and terrorists.”

Decide for yourself. Check out this video of Google Maps 6.0 for Android in action at IKEA.

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