Google Street View celebrates 10th anniversary

  • TECH
  • Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Users can easily visit places like Mount Kinabalu, Grand Canyon, Taj Mahal and Angkor Wat without having to visit them in-person with Street View. — Google

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.

Today, the service is celebrating its 10th anniversary, celebrating ten years 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 program 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.

A Google Street View car is seen in a street in Madrid, Spain, May 29, 2017. REUTERS/Sergio Perez
A Google Street View car in Madrid, Spain. — Reuters

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.

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.

Manik Gupta, group product manager for Google Maps, explaining how the Street View Trekker, an 18Kg backpack equipped with 15 lenses, works to capture 360-degree views in areas inaccessible to vehicles
Google Maps group product manager Manik Gupta explaining how the Street View Trekker, an 18kg backpack equipped with 15 lenses, works to capture 360° views in areas inaccessible to vehicles, such as the Angkor Wat temple in Cambodia. — TAN KIT HOONG/The Star

Among the places that the Trekker has covered include natural wonders and world heritage sites such as Grand Canyon, Taj Mahal, Angkor Wat, 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 better view of renowned artworks in museums.

Relying on internal efforts could only go as 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 ten years – and beyond – of charting the world's wonders.

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