Today is the 15th birthday of Google Maps Street View, Google’s project to take ground-level, 360-degree photographs of the entire world. To celebrate, the company is rolling out a few new features.
First up, Google is bringing historical Street View data to iOS and Android phones. The feature has long existed on desktop browsers, where you can click into Street View mode and then time travel through Google’s image archives. When you tap on a place to see Street View imagery, a “see more dates” button will appear next to the current age of the photo, letting you browse all the photos for that area going back to 2007. Google says the feature will release “starting today on Android and iOS globally,” though, like all Google product launches, it will take some time to fully roll out.
If you’d like to help Google with its plan to photograph the entire world, the company is launching “Street View Studio.” Google calls this “a new platform with all the tools you need to publish 360 image sequences quickly and in bulk.” The Street View app is still around for people who want to build a 360 photosphere from a regular smartphone camera, but Google imagines Street View Studio as a tool for people with consumer 360 cameras. Google has a store-style page that lists compatible 360 cameras; the options range from sub-$200 fisheye cameras to the $3,600, ball-shaped Insta360 Pro, which looks like something out of Star Wars.
Google is also introducing a new in-house camera built specifically for Street View. The company says it’s “roughly the size of a house cat” and weighs less than 15 pounds. The goal is to take “all the power, resolution and processing capabilities that we’ve built into an entire Street View car” and cram it into an ultra-portable package that can be shipped to underserved areas “like the Amazon jungle.”
Google already has several versions of a backpack-mounted “Trekker” Street View camera for hiking trailers, so this camera is designed to augment its car fleet. Street View cars are big, rolling computers that are hard to move around the world, while this camera is completely self-contained. It can be easily strapped to the roof racks of a car and is controlled via a smartphone app. There’s even a modular system for add-ons like lidar.
Like the other Street View cameras, this one isn’t for sale, but Google will give you a loaner if you can convince the company to send you one.
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