Street View turns 10

It’s gone from a spe­cial project to a ser­vice used by mil­lions of peo­ple around the world.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Technology - By LEE KAH LENG bytz@thes­ The first Street View cars hit the roads back in 2006. — Reuters

TO MIL­LIONS of users around the world, Google Street View – the pop­u­lar fea­ture that pro­vides panoramic 360° views on lo­ca­tions around the world – has been one of the most use­ful fea­tures that Google has rolled out in re­cent years.

As the ser­vice re­cently hit the 10-year mile­stone, the com­pany is mark­ing a decade of help­ing users scale moun­tains, dive into the depths of the ocean, scout out ra­men spots and walk through mu­se­ums in far cor­ners of the world, all with­out hav­ing to travel to the des­ti­na­tions in-per­son.

“Over the last decade, a lot has changed – the tech­nol­ogy we use, the ap­pear­ance of the planet – but the goal of Google Maps has re­mained the same: to help you nav­i­gate and dis­cover new cor­ners of the world. Now raise your glass (or smart­phone), and cheers to Street View’s 10th birth­day,” said Ar­jun Ra­man, tech­ni­cal pro­gramme man­age­ment di­rec­tor for Google Street View in a blog post.

Look­ing back, the ser­vice started with Google’s co-founder Larry Page cre­at­ing the first pro­to­type in 2004 with a team of Googlers who were pas­sion­ate about the idea to cre­ate a 360° view of the world.

The team placed cam­eras on a van and with the ad­di­tion of “some lasers”, turned the ve­hi­cle into the first Street View car.

Two years later, Street View of­fi­cially hit the roads in a num­ber of cities across the United States, with the first im­agery be­ing pub­lished a year later. A Google em­ployee car­ry­ing the Trekker while map­ping the Inca ci­tadel of Machu Pic­chu for Google Street View in Cuzco, Peru. The Trekker gave Street View ac­cess to places that ex­ist be­yond roads. — Reuters

To date, Google said that it has pub­lished im­agery collection on ev­ery con­ti­nent, in 83 coun­tries, and travelled about 10 mil­lion miles with the Street View car.

“While our cars ex­plored streets around the world, we were still miss­ing out on some of the most beau­ti­ful places on earth: the world that ex­ists be­yond the roads.”

“So we de­vel­oped cus­tom ve­hi­cles, like the Street View Trekker, to go where cars couldn’t go.”

The Street View Trekker is a de­vice that is de­signed to be worn and walked through nar­row al­ley­ways or trails, gath­er­ing images while the per­son walks.

Among the places that the

Trekker has cov­ered in­clude nat­u­ral won­ders and world her­itage sites such as the Grand Canyon, Taj Ma­hal, Angkor Wat, the Gala­pa­gos Is­lands and Venice.

It has also been used by con­ser­va­tion or­gan­i­sa­tions to ob­serve wildlife in their nat­u­ral habi­tats, such as ele­phants, chimps, polar bears and frogs in the Ama­zon.

Ac­cord­ing to Google, it has also placed the Street View cam­eras on a snow­mo­bile, on the back of a camel while roam­ing the Ara­bian desert and a trol­ley to get a bet­ter view of renowned art­works in mu­se­ums.

Re­ly­ing on in­ter­nal ef­forts could only go so far and in 2013, the

com­pany en­listed the help of part­ners through the Trekker Loan Pro­gram, en­abling vol­un­teers to col­lect 360° im­agery of the places they know best.

Lastly, the Street View app that many of us have on smart­phones was in­tro­duced in 2015 so that any­one could pub­lish 360° panora­mas of their favourite places from around the world to Google Maps in an in­stant.

If you hap­pen to have any of the 20 new Street View-com­pat­i­ble 360 cam­eras, you might even be able to con­trib­ute your high qual­ity im­agery from right where you are.

With any luck, there will be an­other 10 years – and be­yond – of chart­ing the world’s won­ders.

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