Google released new visual improvements to the base maps in Google Maps. The improvements include new representations of terrain, vegetation, and land formations. The new base layer reminds me quite a bit of what you would typically find in a flat wall map. It also reminded me of the base layer in the National Geographic Map Maker.
Applications for Education
For a couple of years now you have been able to use "Earth view" in
Google Maps. The Earth view provides a great look at the physical
geography of the Earth, but running the Google Earth plug-in can be
quite CPU intensive on some computers and if your school doesn't allow
you to install plug-ins that view is inaccessible to you. Today, Google
took a step toward resolving those issues.