Google has announced a new addition to Street View that will allow anyone with, initially, a compatible Android smartphone to contribute images.
Google has turned to crowdsourcing to fill in the gaps of its popular Street View feature, allowing smartphone users to begin contributing their own images to the service. The job of gathering images for Street View had primarily been the task of Google’s Street View cars, which have become well-known around the world as they drive around capturing images via cameras mounted on their roofs. That same capability is now being made available to the public.
Google’s Street View technology first launched in the U.S. in 2007 as a feature for both Google Maps and Google Earth. In the 13 years since, Street View has expanded to include locations on all seven continents around the world. Google has utilized everything from cars to trolleys to snowmobiles to take 360-degree photos all over the globe.
By using the updated Street View app on Android, Google announced that certain smartphone users now have the ability to collect an image — or even a series of connected images — and put them in the correct locations via Google Maps. The new feature is currently in beta and available for Android users in Toronto, Canada, New York, NY, Austin, TX, Nigeria, Indonesia, and Costa Rica. Once its availability expands, anyone will be able to contribute photos for places that haven’t been explored yet by Google’s Street View vehicles.
How Street View’s Connected Photos Feature Could Improve Navigation
After recording images and publishing them in the Street View app, Google says it will automatically match connected images to their corresponding places on Google Maps, allowing others to explore the exact locations those shots were taken. That in itself is a neat new perk of this Street View feature. However, Google makes the case that allowing people to add their own photos to Street View will actually improve the overall experience on Google Maps.
The theory is, once this feature becomes widely available, it will become more possible than ever before to document previously unmapped areas around the world with photos and imagery. That should lead to more accurate navigation in rural or less-traveled areas via Google Maps, and could eventually translate to having consistently updated details about businesses and public locations in those areas. In a sense, a community-fed Street View app would be useful beyond filling in visual elements to Google Maps and Google Earth; it could be a futuristic way to maintain the most up-to-date global map in modern history.
Of course, Google will be relying on everyday people to help make this happen, and there lies some definite room for error in that plan. Google does say that faces and license plates will be blurred in the crowdsourced images as they normally are in Street View photos and, furthermore, that it will allow people to report images for review. That being said, opening up a feature like this to potentially billions of people is bound to result in at least a few issues with the content that ends up being generated. Overall, this is an exciting, creative new feature coming to Google’s Street View app. Just don’t be surprised when high jinks inevitably ensue.
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