Google Maps has launched 3D photo tours which will enable users to experience the best views of popular landmarks sitting at home.

Earlier, the search giant had launched Street View within Google Maps, which allowed users to explore landmarks, view natural wonders and navigate a trip. It lets one explore the places around the world via 360 degree street-level imagery.

This time, 3D photo tours are available for more than 15,000 popular sites around the world, from famous landmarks such as the St Mark's Basilica, the Half Dome in Yosemite, the Trevi Fountain, the Eiffel Tower in Paris and New York City's Central Park. In order to generate the photo tours, the company has used advanced computer vision techniques to create a 3D experience from user-contributed Picasa and Panaromio photos.

"We start by finding clusters of overlapping photos around major landmarks. From the photos, our system derives the 3D shape of each landmark and computes the location and orientation of each photo," said Steve Seitz, Software Engineer, Google Maps.

Google Maps chooses a path though the best pictures and then adds 3D transitions to guide viewers from one photo to other. It appears as if the user is flying around the places and is viewing it from various angles. Users can lean back and enjoy the photo tours which are posted by Google. In order to view the tour, the user must enable Google Map's WebGL feature which offers 3D graphics to the web browser. It does not need any extraneous software to be installed by the user.

"Every photo is attributed to its contributor and the more photos people share, the better the tours get. So if you have great photos of places you've visited on Picasa or Panoramio, make them public so they'll be eligible for inclusion in these photo tours," said Steve Seitz.

Check out the video posted by Google Maps