3D announcement seen as an attempt to pre-empt Apple.

Google have unveiled new mapping technologies including 3D cityscapes on Google Earth and a new team of “Street View Trekkers”.

Although 3D modeling technology has been around for a while, Google have developed a way to automate the process using aerial photography. By the end of the year they aim to create 3D maps of urban areas home to over 300 million people.

The 3D maps will initially be available only on Google Earth mobile apps, with a desktop version expected to follow.

Google also plans to update their mapping of the world's more remote spots. The Street View technology already employed by cars, trikes and snowmobiles is now compact enough to be carried in a rucksack, allowing intrepid Google staff to map previously inaccessible areas, like mountain tops and national parks.

The news has been seen as an attempt to preempt Apple's expected announcement that they will be replacing Google Maps with their own technology in the next software update.