Today is the 15th birthday of Google Maps Street View, Google’s project for taking ground-level 360-degree photos of the entire world. To celebrate, the company is rolling out some new features.
First, Google will bring historical Street View data to iOS and Android phones. The feature has been around for a long time on desktop browsers, where you can click into Street View mode and then travel back in time through Google’s image archives. When you tap a place to view Street View images, a “see more dates” button will appear next to the photo’s current age, allowing you to browse all photos in that area since 2007. Google says the feature will roll out “starting today on Android and iOS globally”, however, like all Google product launches, it will take some time to fully implement.
If you want to help Google with its plan to photograph the entire world, the company is launching “Street View Studio.” Google calls this “a new platform with all the tools you need to publish 360 image sequences quickly and in bulk.” The Street View app still exists for people who want to create a 360 photosphere from a regular smartphone camera, but Google envisions Street View Studio as a tool for people with consumer 360 cameras. Google has a store-style page that lists supported 360 cameras; options range from sub-$200 fisheye cameras to the $3,600 ball-shaped Insta360 Pro, which seems somewhat out of place. Star Wars.
Google is also introducing a new internal camera built specifically for Street View. The company says it’s “about the size of a house cat” and weighs less than 15 pounds. The goal is to take “all the power, resolution, and processing capabilities we’ve packed into a full-fledged Street View car” and cram it into an ultra-portable package that can be shipped into underserved areas “like the Amazon rainforest.”
Google already has several versions of a backpack-mounted “Trekker” Street View camera for hiking trailers, so this camera is designed to augment your car fleet. Street View cars are large, rolling computers that are difficult to move around the world, while this camera is completely self-contained. It can be easily attached to the roof racks of a car and is controlled via a smartphone app. There is even a modular system for plugins like lidar.
Like the other Street View cameras, this one isn’t for sale, but Google will lend you one if you can convince the company to send you one.