Google's Street View online service officially debuted in the UK on Wednesday and has already attracted its fair share of controversy and press coverage within a few hours.
The feature, which is part of Google Maps and Google Earth, allows users to have an almost complete spherical panoramic street level views of a number of locations worldwide. Here are 10 things you should know about Google's latest uber cool service.
(1) Google Street View Has Almost "Killed" Before
Back in Julyu 2008, a GSV camera car hit a baby deer but did not killed it. The animal apparently left the spot before police arrived. The pictures have since been removed from Google and at that time, showed that Google did not actually vet each and every Street View photo.
(2) Google Street View Only Covers Day Time
Some of the most magnificent city shots are taken at night. But GSV only cover day time photos probably because (a) night shots are more tricky to take (b) this would involve double the cost (c) people don't really care. Still, it would have been quite a spectacle to see how Oxford Circus or the Eiffel Tower looks by night.
(3) You Can Actively Protect Your Privacy
GSV provides with a "report a concern" link where you can either flag content as being "inappropriate" or violating your privacy. Because certain aspects of GSV are automated, there has been several instances where car number plates or people's faces have not been blurred out. In addition, users can ask for photos of "of themselves, their children, their cars or their houses" to be completely removed from GSV.
(4) GSV Currently Covers cities in 8 countries and on 3 continents
GSV is available in the major cities in the following countries. America, France, United Kingdom, Netherlands, Spain, Italy, Australia and New Zealand. Taiwan and Canada are expected to be next on the list. Unsurprisingly, when it comes to continents, Africa, Antartica and South America (as well as the overwhelming majority of Asia) are out of the plan for the time being.
(5) Google Street View on Your Mobile
Google did announce in December last year that Street View is available as part of the Google Maps for Mobile service, for Nokia S60, Windows Mobile, Android, Blackberry and iPhone. You can download Google Maps here and convert your phone into a portable 3D SatNav. Check the video below
(6) User input
Users can already upload their own photos of famous landmarks. Google will then apply some nifty computer algorithms that will match the photos to the actual perspective (check this example of Oxford Circus in London). It is worth noting though that the photos may have been taken at different times and may not have been blurred. Google partners with Panoramio for the user photos.
(7) Google Street View Has Many Clones
GSV has a number of clones worldwide especially in non-English speaking countries. iiCosmo for example covers Japan and Istambul and sports a nifty video journey planner that allows you to view your route virtually. Earthmine and Everscape also have APIs which should allow developers to create immersive, detailed and accurate 3D experiences as well. You can also try Hitta.se if you plan to visit Sweden and the gorgeous City8 if you want to see how the Tiananmen Square really looks like. Just mind the full screen, roller-coasting effects.
(8) The future
Google already operates at street level and using satellites. It is likely that at some point in the future, Google extends GSV to other areas worldwide using automated flying drones. They might even use balloons to do that as they have reportedly used a company called Space Data Corp before. Google could also employ complex algorithms to match photos on the internet to places on GSV and may integrate time lines as well (e.g. how a placed looked 10 years before).