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Google Maps Gives Users Street View

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Never mind trying to spot your house with Google Earth – residents in a few American cities can now try to spot themselves with Google Maps.  A new feature called Street View represents those areas exactly as a pedestrian would see them.

What’s more, this imaginary person isn’t locked in place – he (or she) can go for a walk, and the view will smoothly pan about accordingly.  It’s pretty nifty, though the feature only works for Denver, Las Vegas, San Francisco, New York, and Miami right now.

But that could be for the best.  The level of detail – faces and license plates are both pretty easy to make out – allows for the possibility of some mischief.  Google may be planning to address this issue, but in the meantime, there’s just a “Report Inappropriate Image” button.  Sensitive souls and privacy advocates have been warned.

Street View remains an impressive technical accomplishment, though, and a lot of the praise should be directed at a company called Immersive Media.  As reported by O’Reilly Radar’s Brady Forrest, Immersive “has an eleven lens camera capable of taking full, high-res video while driving along city streets. Each captured pixel . . . is geotagged and primed for consumer use.  Their main clients up till now have been city planners and the defense industry.”

Also, in terms of Street View’s limited scope, Forrest writes, “When I met with Immersive Media they had many more cities than this mapped, so expect more to come soon.”

Street View is, for the moment, little more than a novelty.  But the appearance of this tool, combined with Google’s recent deal with Stanford’s robot racing team, makes it look like the search engine giant is preparing to do something big in this market.  Stay tuned.

Google Maps Gives Users Street View
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