Google Lets You Peek Behind The Scenes Of Its Treks Street View Tours With Stunning Microsites

Screen Shot 2013-08-14 at 11.52.50 AM

Google has spent a lot of time and human hours mapping some of the more remote areas of the globe with its Trekker program, and now users have a chance to go behind the scenes and learn more about both those places and the process. Google put up a new Behind The Scenes site for the Treks Street View project, complete with video, amazing images, maps and audio and visual tours.

Besides being an awesome time-killer for when you have some hours to spare, the Trek microsites give Google a way to show off a number of its products all in one place. It combines YouTube, Maps, Maps tours, HTML5 web technologies, slideshows and more, which also has the benefit of revealing some of the greater potential of Chrome as a browser.

Currently, the Street View Treks microsites cover the Burj Khalifa, Iqaluit, Mt. Everest, the Grand Canyon, the Great Barrier Reef, the Amazon Basin and the Kennedy Space Center. Additional tours for the Galapagos Islands and Venice are said to be “coming soon” by Google, too.

Remember that Google is looking for organizations to help out with the Google Trekker program, so your views could be among the next featured on these microsites. Sometimes it may be tempting to question the utility of Google’s more ambitious initiatives, but as these microsites show, they sure can paint a pretty picture.

Google Brings Street View, Archival Images And Photos To The Eiffel Tower

Construction of the Eiffel Tower

Google today introduced 360-degree Street View imagery of all of the main floors of the Eiffel Tower in Paris. A few weeks ago, Google introduced Street View imagery for the world’s largest building, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, so adding this kind of imagery isn’t exactly new anymore. What’s different this time around, however, is that the Google Cultural Institute – in cooperation with the Eiffel Tower Operating Company — used this Street View imagery to create a number of online exhibitions about the tower.

These exhibitions feature over 50 archival images, plans, engravings and photos that, says Google, tell “the story of the Eiffel Tower’s development and social impact in the 19th century.” One of the highlights of this collection is a recording of Gustave Eiffel’s voice by Thomas Edison.

Sadly, it looks like Google only got a chance to take its Street View Trolley up the Eiffel Tower on a somewhat cloudy day, so the overall view isn’t quite as spectacular as it could have been.

Over the last few months, Google has been expanding Street View’s reach into a number of new locations ranging from underwater photography around the Great Barrier Reef to the Grand Canyon and numerous zoos, canals, abandoned islands and ski slopes around the world. Just last month, Google added close to 1,000 new Street View locations in Asia, Europe, Latin America and North America to its maps.

Google Looking For Groups To Provide The Next Hikers To Don Trekker Street View Backpack

IMG_6111

Google is trying hard to build out its Street View-style imagery of locales off the beaten path with its Trekker program. The Trekker, a roughly 40-pound backpack that has a camera-ridden sphere poking out over its wearer’s head, captures 360-degree fields of view which are then used to build interactive, first-person views of remote places like the Grand Canyon. Google is now looking for applicants to help it continue to expand its Trekker efforts.

The application is open to non-profits, tourism boards, government agencies, academic or research organizations or other groups interested in helping the search giant document the world. The applications will be reviewed over the next few months, and agencies selected will become part of Google’s pilot program, which is open to organizations around the world.

I got the chance to wear one of the Trekker packs at Google I/O this year, and to discuss the program with the tech’s co-creator, Steve Silverman. At the time, Silverman said that Google would be building out its Trekker program in the coming months, and it’s looking at outside partners to help with that, including the inaugural partner for this expansion, the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau. It makes sense that Google would turn to the people who know the terrain best to help them chart and capture Trekker Street View scenery, rather than trying to do it all themselves.

If they’re looking for anyone to help negotiate the wilds of Toronto’s dense urban jungle, sign me up, but this is more likely a job for those occupying greener spaces.



Google Adds 1,000 New Locations From Asia, Europe, Latin America, the U.S. and Canada To Street View

singapore_street_view

Google today launched a large update to Google Maps that adds more than 1,000 new locations from around the world to the service’s Street View feature. These include numerous locations that can’t be reached by car, including the cathedral of Seville, the canals of Copenhagen and the Singapore Zoo. Overall, it seems, this update focuses on locations from Asia, Europe, Latin America, the U.S. and Canada.

Google, of course, has long been expanding Street View’s reach beyond cities and rural streets, thanks to its backpack-like Trekker, tricycles and, most recently, its underwater Street View scooter. Today’s update, Google says, includes numerous historical landmarks and sports stadiums, but it’s also adding some ski slopes in Chile and other relatively unusual locations to its lineup.

Today’s large rollout hints at the fact that Google is speeding up its Street View imaging efforts. Until now, it would often announce some of these projects individually. Now, however, it’s adding a huge amount of locations from around the world in one launch, even though quite a few of them are probably a first for the Street View team.

All of this imagery, of course, is available on the web, as well as on Google Maps for Android and iPhone.

Google Takes Street View Trekker And Underwater Cameras To The Galapagos Islands, Coming To Google Maps Later This Year

Trekker 2 - corrected

Google today announced that it has been taking its Street View Trekker – the compact backpack version of its Street View cars – and its underwater Street View cameras to the Galapagos Islands and that it plans to make these images available on Google Maps later this year. The company worked together with the Charles Darwin Foundation, the Galapagos National Parks Directorate and, for the underwater survey, the Catlin Seaview Survey.

The Street View team, Google says, spent 10 days in the Galapagos to capture imagery from 10 locations that were selected by its partners. During these hikes, Google Maps project lead Raleigh Seamster says, the team “walked past giant tortoises and blue-footed boobies, navigated through steep trails and lava fields, and picked our way down the crater of an active volcano called Sierra Negra.”

Google, of course, has been taking the Trekker across the world already and most recently hiked around the Grand Canyon to take enough images for over 9,500 panoramas there and handed it over to a local hiker to get imagery of Canada’s Arctic territory.

The underwater part of the project, however, is maybe even more impressive. As Google revealed at I/O last week, the Catlin Seaview Survey currently has four underwater Street View cameras and its diver can cover about 2km during a single dive.

The Galapagos expedition, Seamster noted in today’s announcement, marks the first time the team has captured imagery from both land and sea at the same time.



Google’s Street View Trekker Backpack Co-Creator Talks Unmanned Hikes, Pack Animal Street View

SV_trekker_3_large

Google impressed a lot of people when it debuted its Grand Canyon Street View imagery in October. The Trekker backpack used to capture that imagery, which is essentially a backpack-mounted version of the same all-seeing eye that sits atop the Google Street View car.

The roughly 40-pound backpack is not all that uncomfortable to wear, I found out when I slipped the Trekker on. It’s a little top-heavy, and I’m not sure I’d want to risk running at a brisk clip if I was using one out in the wild, but it’s really no heavier than a standard backpacker’s kit for a few days’ journey.

Silverman explained how the Trekker works, including how its camera sensor head gathers images and how those are then stored on a hefty solid state hard drive built into the backpack, where they can later be transferred back to Google’s servers to get started with the process of recreating a hike.

I asked Silverman whether we might see the Trekker make its way to the backs of other beings beyond humans, and he said that they are indeed mulling the idea of strapping versions of it to beasts of burden to help them continue to map the world in images. There are also plans in the works to mount it to remotely operated robots and small vehicles to help get imagery that otherwise wouldn’t be easily reachable by a human Trekker.

He said to expect plenty more to come from the Trekker team in terms of Street View imagery of some of the world’s most interesting – and most remote – locales. Combined with Google’s new underwater street view project, that means everyone can probably get a lot more familiar with a lot more of the world in the near future.

How Google Took Street View For A Dive

Google Maps underwater

Google’s underwater Street View launched last September, but Google’s Ocean program actually began six years ago, when one of the founders of Keyhole (which, after being acquired by Google, later became Google Earth), was inspired to also look into mapping the ocean. For several years now Google has been mapping the oceans, but bringing Street View underwater is still very challenging.

“Our goal is to really make all of our maps data more comprehensive by adding more ocean data. We want to take you from your home to the turtle’s home,” Google’s Jennifer Austin Foulkes said. So far, Google has launched this for six locations, including Oahu, Maui and locations around the Great Barrier Reef.

Because there is a strong scientific component to this project, the team set up a strict protocol for taking this imagery. Richard Vevers, director of the Catlin Seaview Survey – Google’s partner in this project – said that the cameras his team uses for this project are very different from those used by Google’s other Street View vehicles. The team had to use wider-angle lenses, for example. Google’s underwater Street View camera has three cameras on its front and takes images every three seconds. One of the cameras points downward, because that’s how images during reef surveys have traditionally been taken. The back of the scooter features a tablet that can control the cameras.

During a typical dive, the divers cover about 2km and take 3,000 to 4,000 images per camera, and the team does three dives per day, each of which lasts about an hour. In total, the team has taken about 150,000 images so far, and Vevers expects this number to grow exponentially over the next few months. In the long run, the team hopes to create diver-less systems that can stay underwater for 12 hours or more. The technology is already available, but it needs to be adapted to the kind of camera system needed for Street View.

In addition to the usual cameras, the team is also testing stereo cameras to create 3D imagery and has recently experimented with doing underwater Hangouts and using Photo Spheres to engage the public.

Every camera system costs about $50,000, and four of them are currently in existence, though two of them haven’t been in the water yet.

To get this underwater data into Street View, Vevers used Google’s standard Business Photos tool. The actual location of the images, by the way, is triangulated. The images, it’s worth noting, are also freely available for scientists.

The team is focusing on the Americas right now, but plans to bring underwater Street View to all of the world’s oceans over the next three years (that’s obviously just a few locations – not all of the oceans…). Another focus for the team is getting more developers involved – both for crowdsourcing data and for developing better reef-recognition algorithms. The existing algorithms can only interpret images from a downward-facing camera, but the team is hoping to create tools for working with all of the data the cameras generate.

Given the threats to the ocean, there is obviously a serious side to this project, something Vevers noted during his talk. Street View, he argues, is an important tool to inform the public about the threats that the ocean’s face today. “People don’t want to protect anything they can’t see,” he said. Most people don’t dive, but there’s no reason why we can’t take them diving virtually. There is no point in doing science, Vevers argues, if it doesn’t get out to the public and policy makers.

Google Hands Street View Trekker Over To A Local To Get Imagery Of Canada’s Arctic Territory

SolsTtPwgL9bqLzF2V_tE_oy-3Bon7XVMYMDaaYNzhx1AB7Yvbgi5cWv9yBf-dYNyg=s2000

We know that Google’s Street View team has been making its technology smaller and more mobile, especially when it comes to people snapping images for Google Maps. Today, the team has shared some imagery from Canada’s Arctic territory of Nunavut.

The difference is that, unlike with the Grand Canyon, the person carrying the Trekker on their back wasn’t a Google employee. It was a resident of Nunavut, Chris Kalluk, who works at a nonprofit organization called Nunavut Tunngavik, which is working along with Google to collect imagery and build more detailed maps of the Canadian Arctic.

Much like the Street View team did for its snowmobile mission during the Olympics, the Trekker has been prepped to handle below-freezing temperatures, which are the conditions in Canada’s Arctic about eight months of the year, Kalluk explains in the post: “Winter up here is a way of life. And the only way to truly understand it is to see it for yourself.”

Here’s what Kalluk had to share about his experience, the first Trekker expedition in Canada:

I’m wearing the backpack to collect Street View imagery as I walk to the shore of Frobisher Bay, where the wind is the strongest and you can see the tide piling up mountains of sea ice. On the way I’ll pass sled dogs tied up outside houses, yapping in anticipation of their next trip. And I may stop to check out an igloo, built by Inuit craftsmen using methods passed down over a millennia.

As part of its commitment to build a comprehensive and accurate map of Canada’s north, Google visited my home, Cambridge Bay, last August and published imagery of the trip that fall. But this visit to Iqaluit marks the first time the Google Maps team has ventured into an Arctic climate during the winter months, where average temperatures can dip below -30°C [-25°F].

Kalluk and Google Maps Project Lead Raleigh Seamster aren’t just snapping photos with a backpack. The pair spent time with members of the community to discuss how Google Maps would like to collect all of the information about Iqaluit. He says that they spent time with locals explaining Map Maker, the tool where citizens can participate in the creation and updating of Google Maps.

Google is trying to get imagery and information out of every nook and cranny of the globe, and you can imagine a day where we’ll all be able to set out to our favorite spots that haven’t been documented yet, and feed that information back to a global database. In essence, with the tools that Google Street View and Maps have created, we’re all Christopher Columbus, re-exploring and documenting what people have only visited and snapped photos of for themselves and friends for years.

“I like to think of it as our chance to give you the lead sled dog’s view,” Kalluk said. In case you never visit Nunavut, Street View is your way of beaming there and visiting. The imagery isn’t available yet, but if the 9,500 Grand Canyon shots are any indication, it’s going to be pretty amazing.

Google Maps Gets More Exploratory With Street View Access To Everest, Kilimanjaro, Mount Elbrus And More

Screen Shot 2013-03-18 at 12.13.39 PM

Google has been doing a lot to make Google Maps more about exploring the world, including places few will ever be able to see with their own eyes. Today, the company announced that it has added more locations to Maps, including Street View-style access to some of the highest peaks in the world.

Via the official Google Blog, the company revealed the introduction of new Street View features for some of Earth’s most celebrated mountains, including Everest, Mount Elbrus, Aconcagua and Kilimanjaro. They belong to the famous Seven Summits, an elite collection of the highest mountains on each continent. You don’t even have to acclimatize to high altitudes to check out these locations on Google Maps.

There’s a lot of detail in the virtual tours you can take of these peaks, including images of base camps set up by actual explorers. Google set out with a fisheye lens and lightweight tripod to capture the images, and will be detailing the whole expedition in a Google+ Hangout which is set to kick off at 10 AM PT today.

Google has been doing a lot to build out some amazing views of the more remote corners of the world, including its recent introduction of Street View tours of the Grand Canyon, Antarctica and other far-flung locations. Google’s remote tourism is actually an incredibly cool way to attract eyeballs to the Maps product, while helping the company build out an even more comprehensive database than it already has.

Inside Google Street View: From Larry Page’s Car To The Depths Of The Grand Canyon

5b3a221986912de12112d9854816528b (2)

Teleportation is the transfer of matter from one point to another without traversing the physical space between them, similar to the concept apport, an earlier word used in the context of spiritualism.”

The concept of moving throughout the world freely without actually having to “physically” travel is the Holy Grail for many. Being able to explore a physical space that is thousands of miles away without having to deal with the rigors of travel seems like something out of a science fiction novel. With Street View, Google has brought us as close as we could possibly get to teleportation – without the actual physical matter transference, of course.

The project started as research at Stanford and then hopped into Google co-founder and CEO Larry Page’s car. Snapping photos of every nook and cranny of the planet so that people could travel the world from the comfort of their own homes or mobile devices is the hallmark of Google’s approach to the world around it and the evolution of technology.

I spent the day with the founding members of the Street View team to learn about how it went from a gimmick in someone’s mind to a utility that we use without thinking, and in some cases, wouldn’t want to live without.

Starting out as a camera strapped to Page’s car, Street View technology has been added to vans, cars, tripods, backpacks, bikes and even a snow mobile. It has become the eyes of all of Google’s vision for how we view the world after launching on May 25, 2007. While the product has had its fair share of controversy, Google has forged ahead.

Going somewhere before you actually get there

It was a Frankenstein-looking car.

Before I spoke with Luc Vincent, engineering director, and Daniel Filip, engineering manager, at Google Maps, I had done quite a bit of research into the history of the Google Maps product as a whole. What I didn’t know is how “pie in the sky” the concept of Street View actually was, which is an easy misconception to have once a technology has become so ubiquitous.

Vincent told me a bit about the first concept of Street View, which was hatched at Google based on some experiments being done at Stanford, led by Marc Levoy. Levoy and one of his students had come up with a way to shoot video and paste it together into one picture, and Google decided to invest a little money into more experiments to see if it was feasible to take photos of every street in San Francisco. By parsing out this video frame by frame, it could make a really “long” image, or a facade of an entire street. It was distorted, of course, but this was the building block that Google needed to prove its Street View theory.

On these long, wiggly, very early street-wide images, Vincent said, “That was interesting to us.” Pretty to the point, and that was the moment that Street View was born.

After this testing, Larry Page strapped a camera onto his car and snapped shots throughout San Francisco. These images, along with some very basic cross-street data, would be patched together into something that wasn’t quite useful, but was even more “interesting,” as Vincent put it.

From Page’s car, the very early Street View team, which was comprised of a few random Googlers using their 20 percent time, threw some cameras into a van with a GPS and some lasers. The lasers were to grab data so that the team could know what the distance was between the camera and the facades of the buildings. That spacial recognition is what helps Google patch all of its images together and give it that 3D feel. The camera took a lot of pictures, the devices, hooked up to a raid of computers in the back of the van, and then this very unique dataset that is what makes Street View Street View, was amassed. It wasn’t pretty, though, as Vincent said:

It was a Frankenstein-looking car, but it let us capture enough data in the Bay Area. We had a van that we borrowed from the security team. It would go into the city, do some driving, and things would stop working and the computer gave us errors.

Getting buy-in

It was going to have to be expensive to be comprehensive.

Working on a project at Google with your 20 percent time is only part of the battle. Getting other people to join your team and getting it approved is a whole separate hurdle. Vincent told me that once they collected all of this data, people started piecing it together, and the demos made sense.

In Q3 of 2005, Vincent and his team gave a tech talk at Google, one that takes place every Friday, and was able to get more 20 percenters to join the team, including a key engineering VP. In October of 2005, Street View was approved and had the go-ahead to expand. There was no turning back. The world would be mapped out pixel by pixel by a bunch of moonshot thinkers who were trying to figure out how many devices they could bolt onto a car without it failing every five miles. While Street View was still under the radar at this point, Vincent could start hiring people – Filip being the first. The fact that these two are still working on the product today is a testament to how far it’s come and how much is still left to do.

In early 2006, there were seven Googlers working on Street View full time, with the goal of making it a “real product.” Vincent had this to say on the transition:

There were a few things at that time that we were really interested in. Perspective panoramas were cool but really hard to make. We only had one UI/UX guy to figure out how to integrate it into maps, but there was no compelling way to show it, because there was no “Google Maps” when we started.

Yes, all of the infrastructure that you see today in the Google Maps product didn’t even exist at that time, so the Street View team at Google had even passed Google’s current plans and trajectory. Vincent shared:

What we did was built a new platform. We wanted to build something reliable and scalable and put it in a car. Something with high-speed cameras to take pictures, so we had 8 SLRs in a rosette configuration to take images all around the vehicle. Our thought at this time was “it was going to have to be expensive to be comprehensive.”

This “rosette design,” which originally consisted of five lenses and one main fisheye called the L2, has become the core to every Street View vehicle. Once this approach to photography and information-gathering was set in stone, Google knew that this would work.

The Data

Collect as much data as possible and figure it out.

Google Street View, and everything Google does pretty much, is all about the data it collects. In many ways, Google is extremely obsessed about collecting all types of data. This approach has ruffled the feathers of those who feel like their privacy is being invaded, but the company takes the approach of “collect as much as you can, make sense of it later, display it in a way that helps people.” Take that approach, then rinse and repeat.

Street View collects quite a bit of data. Vincent’s team had to figure out a way to scale these original vans to grab as much of it as possible so that they wouldn’t have to drive the same routes more than once. The team threw lasers onto the vans – four on each side – to get distance information, more GPS, collected wind velocity and everything in between. He said that the approach was simple: “Collect as much data as possible and figure it out.”

How was this going to work outside of San Francisco, though? There is now Street View data from more than 3,000 cities and 47 countries all over the world, so there was a lot of work ahead before this project ever saw the light of day.

Vincent said:

We had a rack of four or five machines in the back of the vehicles, but something was always breaking. We built three or four of these, and took images mostly in California. The cars were always failing, so we couldn’t scale this.

Five million unique miles driven later, the failures are now few and far between.

Making sense of the data

All of this sounds fantastic – collecting data and photos just by driving around a city – but to make it actually useful, the team had to come up with a way to visualize it and tweak it from a user-experience perspective. Ones and zeros make uber-math geeks happy, but there’s no way that our parents could ever make sense of any of that. To fully experience Google Maps and Street View, the design had to be nearly perfect, as if you just stepped into a foreign city for the first time and had your head on a swivel.

To do this, the Street View team built itself an internal tool to churn through all of the geographical information: they smacked layers of photos on top of it, used all of the spacial details picked up by the lasers bouncing off of buildings and landmarks, and then determined whether it was actually usable. With quite a bit of work, it finally was:

This data was collected by drivers who would fill up hard drives and ship them back to Google. The drivers wouldn’t send them in until they had five disks completely full. The disks would get shipped to a data center, the information uploaded and then everything would get fed into its core database and go through a few processing steps.

One of those processing steps was the blurring of people’s faces and license plates. These are seemingly obvious privacy issues that nobody thought of before this product existed, so Google had to invent the technology to do it systematically. Additionally, there are 15 images taken for each finished shot and angle that you see on Street View today, and Google’s software takes all of these images and mashes them together, adjusts the exposure for sun, shadows, color differences and brightness. That’s the processing that goes into making “perfect” panoramic images.

All the while, Google is detecting and extracting information from objects like street signs to feed back into the main Google Maps product. That’s quite a load.

As each of the cameras on top of the vehicle would snap pictures, the location information could be associated with it, along with that spacial information from the layers, thus allowing the Street View team to stitch together all of the angles necessary to create this beautiful panoramic imagery.

A photo from the front, sides, behind and then eventually from the fisheye looking upwards at buildings would turn into the 3D views that we enjoy today:

One cool thing that I learned was that since the cameras looking in front of and behind the vehicle were partially obstructed, Google invented a technology to smooth those images out using shots from other angles, and that’s why the 3D images seem as if a photo-taking vehicle never existed:

The launch and Street View today

We saw traffic go through the roof.

Google Street View launched officially in 2007 and was only available for San Francisco, New York, Las Vegas, Miami and Denver. The cameras at that time were 5 megapixels, which is barely what we have on our phones today. Now they’re 75 megapixels; try to wrap your brain around that one.

It was an immediate success, even though the Street View team, and Google, didn’t know how well it would be received. Of course, Google was ready to burn a few machines to the ground by serving up this imagery, and Vincent recalled what that day felt like:

We saw traffic go through the roof and about as high as we could serve, well we hit that limit immediately. What’s great about being at Google is you get to observe traffic and interest. The launch showed the interest, and a bunch of websites started popping up and sites popped up showing funny images captured by us.

Those funny, and sometimes disturbing, images have since caused a stir, with Google having to defend itself in some cases.

The original vans weren’t scalable, so fitting this technology, which now consists of “ladybug” cameras with those same 8 lenses and a fisheye, had to be put into cars that could be driven everywhere in the world. You’ve probably even seen one by now.

“It took some time to get there,” Vincent says of Street View, as all of its contraptions have gone through multiple iterations, leading up to Google eventually building its own cameras and custom rigs. Once the core technology was solid, Street View was being asked for in smaller cities and towns in other countries, so the team scaled down the rigs to fit onto other vehicles like bikes. The Street View Trike can maneuver its way in and out of alleyways, around big landmarks and down streets that aren’t wide enough for a car or van.

Then, a member of the team decided that he wanted to do the Street View treatment on the mountains during the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver. Why not, right? The Street View technology was then adapted to be driven around by a snow mobile. It was too cold out for the camera, so Vincent said that the engineer had to take off his jacket to keep it warm. As more data was collected and more imagery was displayed online, the ideas came faster and faster.

We wanted to connect people.

Why would you stop with outside imagery? Why not get panoramic imagery indoors, especially in famous museums? The Street View Trolley was born. On indoor Street View, Vincent said:

We made a new mini computer and shrunk everything and put it onto a pushcart to go into large indoor spaces. A tripod would be too time consuming. The challenge is that there is no GPS indoors, so we worked on complex algorithms that extracts locations of the Trolley without GPS, with lasers and positional data. This Trolley has now helped launched 50 museums.

You’re starting to get the picture. If it doesn’t exist, that doesn’t stop forward-thinking Googlers. Once something works just a little bit and it seems cool and useful for consumers, the money and resources are allocated and things are built on the fly by any means necessary.

The current Street View cameras currently consist of 15 cameras (no more fisheye needed), because Vincent felt like Street View wasn’t getting enough photos. Google continues to push the limits of quality and accuracy, which is one of the reasons why Apple had such a hard time launching its own Map product. You see, Google has been doing all of this since 2005. Not only that, it has been doing it at a huge scale since 2007. All of those lessons learned, all of that data and all of those man-hours mean that Google not only had a head-start, but also a perennial edge moving forward. Basically, catch them if you can.

At the end of my day with the Street View crew, I asked Vincent why he started all of this. His answer, straight-faced, serious and yet wide-eyed and empathetic…”We wanted to connect people.”

Making complex things common

Yes, a lot of Google’s technology runs in the background of our desktops and phones without any of us knowing how it works. That’s the magic, though; you don’t really want to know how the sausage is made; you just want to know that it tastes really good. When something tastes good, you’ll come back and eat more and even tell your friends about it. Vincent likes that Google products are taken for granted, because it allows them to innovate more – and faster.

There are a lot of things that Street View can accomplish in the future. With its Trekker backpack, wooded areas can be charted out to help crews look for missing people, as well as allow you to discover the Grand Canyon without ever actually getting on a plane or bus.

Even though the early days of Street View weren’t pretty, be it the devices that were cobbled together or the artifact-full images that were posted, people got the concept, embraced the concept and asked for more. As long as Google keeps trekking along to gather as much data as it can and figure out how to display it later, we’ll continuously be introduced to more products that just work.

While you might not be able to physically teleport just yet, your mind can wander wherever you like, making the world feel like a smaller place. That connects us to people in a way that no other technology has ever accomplished.

The best part about all of Street View’s historical body of work is that a lot of these approaches have been open-sourced, as if to say “come and get us.” Can you catch up to Google? When it comes to Maps, you better have a pretty sophisticated and fast vehicle, because they’re literally everywhere; just look for the iconic camera.

Also, when you use your smartphone to scope out an area of interest, remember everything that went into displaying that smooth imagery so quickly. Who knows, you might be able to participate in the project one day. With Google Glass, you might be able to take shots of the world around you and have them included in Street View imagery.

Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? About as crazy as strapping a digital camera onto a founder’s car.

Full gallery of photos from my day with the Street View team.

13 visitors online now
5 guests, 8 bots, 0 members
Max visitors today: 38 at 04:55 am EDT
This month: 65 at 04-16-2014 05:21 pm EDT
This year: 66 at 02-14-2014 12:42 am EST
All time: 279 at 10-18-2013 05:24 am EDT
Get Adobe Flash player