Saturday, September 23, 2023

Historic Street View imagery from Google Maps comes to mobile

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Google Maps’ Street View feature is getting some upgrades to celebrate the service’s 15th anniversary search giant announced today† The first is a new feature for the iOS and Android apps that will display historic Street View images on your phone. The second is a new, more portable camera that Google hopes will make it easier to capture Street View images in the future.

Since 2014, it has been possible to use Street View to see how a place has changed over the years through the desktop version of Google Maps. But now the service’s iOS and Android apps have the same capability. You open it by tapping anywhere on the screen while in Street View mode, then select “see more dates” to access the historical images of a location. Google advertises that the feature will show images dating back to Street View’s 2007 launch in locations where it’s available.

The new camera weighs less than 1.5 pounds.
Image: Google

The camera is also easier to retrofit to the top of existing cars.
Image: Google

Google’s second announcement to coincide with Street View’s anniversary is a new, more portable camera for capturing 360-degree images. Currently, the search giant uses special cars and large backpacks of cameras (called Trekkers) to photograph the world, but the new camera reduces all this functionality to a device weighing just under 15 pounds (about 6.8 kg) and, to quote Google’s blog post, “about the size of a house cat.”

The camera is designed to make it easier for Google to capture Street View images around the world so that it can update more frequently. For example, instead of paying for the transportation of special cars equipped with cameras, Google can simply build its new camera into an existing vehicle. And since Street View data has already been collected by attaching the existing bulky cameras to anything from snowmobiles until Venetian gondolasit’s easy to imagine a wide variety of new vehicles that Google should be able to attach the new camera to.

While Google emphasizes the portability of the new camera, Street View’s hardware team chief Steven Silverman says there should also be benefits to how each panorama looks. “The sensors are even higher quality, they have a lower signal-to-noise ratio,” says Silverman. “These images get even more beautiful.” The seven camera sensors in each camera capture panoramic images at a resolution of 140 megapixels, the same as before, and while there are no lidar sensors built-in as standard, Silverman says the camera is designed to be customizable so they can be added when needed. requires.

Street View is a really useful feature (how many of us viewed a location online before going there ourselves) and a fun novelty (with an intense competitive scene to match). But for Google, having cameras roaming the streets is also a useful way to improve Google Maps data. Street View images are used to add newly opened businesses to Google Maps, improve business hours information, and provide information about speed limits on roads.

Silverman says the new camera will roll out next year alongside its existing cars and Trekkers.

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