Google recently unveiled a new Helicopter View feature in Google Maps to give you an overhead 3-D preview of your route, saving you from the need to speed click through Street View to figure out how to get to a new location. Unfortunately, Helicopter View requires the Google Earth plug-in, which consistently fires up the fans on our computers.

In Google Maps' left sidebar you'll find the 3-D mode button to the right of the driving instructions; once activated, it zips you along your route at a preset speed and height. As far as the experience, you're a bit more of a parasailing passenger than a helicopter pilot: you've unfortunately got no control of altitude or speed when moving. The interface could use some work, too. Clicking the screen pauses your trip and you can click, zoom, and drag around to explore your surroundings in 3-D, but in order to resume you've got to jump back to the sidebar and click the 3-D button to resume at the preset altitude.

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