The acquisition of Keyhole underscores Google's efforts to widen its search capabilities beyond basic Web page results, as competition in the search sector heats up.
One example of the company's growth strategy is a feature that lets surfers see excerpts from some books. The company began testing the service last year and incorporated it into its main search engine earlier this month.
Google also recently unveiled Google Desktop Search, a thin-client application that lets people retrieve e-mail, Microsoft Office documents, AOL chat logs and a history of Web pages previously viewed, all via a Web browser.
Keyhole, founded in 2001, offers software that lets Internet users view geographic images collected from satellites and airplanes. The technology relies on a multiterabyte database of mapping information.
The software gives users the ability to zoom in from space level; in some cases, it can zoom in all the way to a street-level view. The company does not have high-resolution imagery for the entire globe, but its Web site offers a list of cities that are available for more detailed viewing. The company has focused most on covering large metropolitan areas in the United States and is working to expand its coverage.
The software lets viewers tilt and rotate an image. Users can also search for information such as the locations of hotels, parks, ATMs and subways.