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Google buys CIA-backed mapping startup

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Google has acquired 3D mapping company Keyhole for an undisclosed sum, and announced that it's cutting the price of the consumer edition from $69.95 to $29.95. Keyhole's EarthViewer mapping service is a technical tour de force, making use of the 3D capabilities of modern PC graphics cards to do the heavy lifting, or rendering in this case. Earthviewer allows you to "fly" between specified points. EarthViewer came to widespread attention during the 2003 invasion of Iraq, when CNN, ABC and CBS used the imaging technology.

Last Febuary Keyhole received an investment from In-Q-Tel, the CIA's no-profit investment fund. EarthViewer isn't the only Google technology that's useful to the intelligence community, of course, there's Gmail, too.

Why would Google want Keyhole? Well, although the company wisely denies that it's becoming a portfolio, it does, like Yahoo! offer local information. However route planning and direction services, which are are a natural fit with local search, are missing. Google wouldn't disclose what it plans to do with the enterprise version of EarthViewer, but it adds another powerful tool to its armory. ®

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