In terms of us wee little humans, Earth's a pretty big place. There's a lot to get around and see and that distance never really seems to get any shorter. Barring the miles or kilometers that keep you from the Leaning Tower of Pisa or tip-toeing through the ruins of Pompei or making a splash at Shark Bay, it's expensive to physically get yourself to these locations.
Granted, there simply isn't anything that can supplant the experience of touching the pockmarked walls of the Coliseum or squeezing in-between the pillars of Stonehenge, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't be able to appreciate the splendor of such artifacts of humanity. For those that still crave to see these places without the financial burden that often accompanies such adventures, Google's released a new product that might lightly scratch that itch to travel: the World Wonders Project.
The World Wonders Project combines many of the marvels of the world with Google Maps' Street View to give users the opportunity to take virtual walking tours of many of the world's more breath-taking and exotic sights. The new feature includes 132 historic sites from 18 different countries, ranging from some of the more remarkable natural wonders of the world to some of the most impressive achievements of architecture.
The tour you can take through these places is pretty detailed, meaning you can virtually walk step-by-step through the area as if you were really there (however, you're on your own to simulate the smells and sounds of any of these places). Google put together the following video to preview the new feature.
When you visit the World Wonders Project, you can select your destinations by either geographical location or by themes, such as Palaces & Castles, Places of Worship, or Archaeological Sites. Additionally, each site has four multiple views available so you can toggle between wandering around outside of a monument or switch it up to take a walk around the interior.
In addition to the Street View tours you can take of these locales, there is some brief historical information about the landmark shared by UNESCO, some related YouTube videos to give you a little more educational background, user-uploaded photos of the sites, and 3D models that others have submitted to Google Earth.
Taking the Street View tour through some of the insides of these places (where there insides to be traversed, that is) is probably more exciting than it actually should be. I really do hesitate to say that it's almost like you're really there on the ground, because it really isn't, but then again, it's about the nearest alternative that you're going to get. World Wonders Projects kinda confuses the senses like that, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.
Amusingly, at the Hall of Mirrors inside of Palace of Versailles, not even the Google employee tasked with pushing the trike through the corridors was able to avoid being captured in one of the many ornate mirrors that line the walls.
What, you didn't think that Google was going to be allowed to drive their car around on such hallowed ground, did you?[Via Google Official Blog.]