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Google unveils underwater street view for maps

Next to Google Search and YouTube, the search giant's maps product has become a resource on which millions of users have come to rely. This point was driven home recently when some users complained loudly about the omission of Google Maps as the default maps app within iOS 6. Now Google is boosting its comprehensive cartographic data by adding panoramic underwater Street View-style imagery to Google Maps.

The stunning images show off detailed underwater views that offer an immersive experience previously only available to scuba divers. A brief introduction video (above) reveals exactly how eye-opening this new feature in Google Maps will be for most users. Google obtained the imagery through a partnership with The Catlin Seaview Survey, a project designed to expose the hidden world that exists in oceans around the world, beginning with the Great Barrier Reef.

"The Global Reef Record is a game-changing scientific tool that scientists around the world will have at their fingertips," lead scientist Ove Hoegh-Guldberg said in a statement. "They will be able to monitor change in marine environments now and in the future. Marine scientists researching any aspect of the reef will be able to study these environments from any of the surveys we conduct – Shallow Reef or Deep Reef."

In order to capture the underwater panoramic images, the team used the Catlin Seaview SVII, a specially designed underwater camera that rapidly shoots 360-degree images every three seconds as the photographer moves through the underwater environment at a speed of roughly two miles per hour. While capturing some of the data the team also used specially equipped tablets to conduct live underwater Google+ Hangouts with viewers (below).

"The possibilities of what we will discover about coral reefs are almost endless," Hoegh-Guldberg said. "And right now, information on how these endangered ecosystems are responding to climate change is incredibly important, given that almost 25 per cent of marine species live in and around coral reefs."

For those without the time to go hunting through the global map for the underwater scenes, Google has posted a full gallery of the underwater imagery online.

In addition to the groundbreaking undersea visual data, Google also announced new, traditional Street View imagery for Chile and Croatia.