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.
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.
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.