Wednesday, July 30, 2014

‘Street View’ maps feature time capsules

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif.—Trips down memory lane are now available on Google’s digital maps.
The new twist on time travel debuted yesterday as part of the “Street View” feature in Google’s maps—a navigational tool that attracts more than one billion visitors each month.

“Street View” snapshots now will include an option to see what neighbourhoods and landmarks looked like at different periods in the last seven years as Google Inc. has been dispatching camera-toting cars to take street-level pictures for its maps.
Google Inc. intends to keep adding pictures to the digital time capsules as its photo-taking cars continue to cruise the same streets gathering updates.
“As time goes by, many of these images are going to become vintage,” predicted Vinay Shet, a Google product manager who oversaw the company’s glimpse into the past.
“We want our maps to be comprehensive as we build a digital mirror of the world.”
Like everything else on Google’s map, the time-tripping option is free.
Google makes money off its maps from advertising, so the Mountain View, Calif. company constantly is coming up with new attractions to keep people coming back.
Even though the photos only date back to 2007, some of them illustrate dramatic changes.
Some photos, for instance, show how neighbourhoods in cities like Tohoku, Japan looked before and after a 9.0-magnitude earthquake struck in March, 2011.
Others show the gradual recovery of New Orleans neighbourhoods in the years following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.
Scrolling over to Washington D.C. will provide a look at the restoration of the historic Howard Theatre in the nation’s capital.
In New York, the “Street View” map presents a string of photos illustrating the changing skyline as the Freedom Tower at the World Trade Center was built.
Even looking at the evolution of Times Square during the past seven years can evoke nostalgic feelings while gazing at a giant billboard advertising a flip-style cellphone in 2007.
The visual retrospectives aren’t available throughout Google’s maps, although Shet said there should be at least one look back in time for just about every neighbourhood that can be viewed through the “Street View” format.
Google’s new feature is displaying more photos of major city centres over time than suburban streets because the company’s camera-bearing cars return to densely-populated areas more frequently.

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