Google buys digital mapping company

Search enabler Google said Wednesday it acquired digital mapping company Keyhole for an undisclosed sum.

Keyhole maintains a multiterabyte database of digital images of geographic locations, culled from satellite and aerial snapshots. Users can enter an address and pull up an image of the specified area; they can also create flyover animations of locations such as venues and neighborhoods.

Three-year-old Keyhole covers thousands of cities and claims to be the largest 3D, commercial imagery database available online. Its images vary in age from two months to three years, and its image resolution in some areas is a fine as 0.5 foot (0.15 meters).

Google said it is not ready to discuss how it will integrate Keyhole's technology with its other services, which include its flagship search engine. However, the company immediately slashed the price tag on Keyhole's consumer-aimed Keyhole 2 LT downloadable software from US$70 to US$30. Keyhole also offers a more expensive Keyhole 2 Pro application, which allows more extensive data manipulation.

Keyhole is the second company Google bought this year, and the first it acquired since its August IPO (initial public offering). In July, Google bought digital photo management company Picasa, also for an undisclosed amount.

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