Reactor

Where Can Google Street View Take You?

by An Xiao on October 15, 2013

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SAN FRANCISCO — Google Street View, as anyone who’s had to visit a new place has acknowledged, is eminently useful. Not only can Google tell us where we’re going with detailed directions, it can also give us a head’s up on what to look out for. A green awning here, a red door there — these visual details matter, as they add up and tell us what to look for. Some have taken road trips on the technology, and Jon Rafman’s “Nine Eyes of Google Street View” remains a classic in the realm of digital/physical exploration.

google-streetview-car-320Street View is already an impressive feat, and if you have Google’s resources, you can turn some surprising places into a site for exploration.

Oceans takes us on a journey underwater, through Molokoni Crater, a a volcanic crater near Maui and one of the most popular diving destinations in the world.

Wilson Island, a stunning refuge in Australia for turtles and birds, comes to life as we click around and zoom in.

Not to be outdone, the Galapagos Islands are also available now for a look-see. Many of us know just how important these islands were to the advancement of Darwin’s theory of evolution, but it’s stunning to see them for ourselves. It becomes a little easier to understand how it inspired his thinking.

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Interiors are also a common subject. CERN, the famous Swiss particle accelerator, can now be explored on Street View. It’s hard to understand its sheer scale, especially without humans present, but the Street View version offers an incredible amount of detail. No word yet if you can serve up the God particle just as easily. And Google’s Street View Treks lists sites like the Burj Khalifa and even Mt. Fuji as possibilities.

There’s an obvious science/travel bent to these alternative sites on Street View, which makes a little sense given the company’s science/engineering focus and its global reach. But what’s less known is that Street View technology can be customized with a little creative imagery and some familiarity with JavaScript. If you have a camera and some time, you can turn anything into a street view project.

What if we had a Street View for popular museums not yet on Google Art Project, or for street art havens? Imagine a Street View for sites of tragedy that are often overlooked or too dangerous to visit, like Japanese internment camps or Three Mile Island (perhaps Google could a self-driving car in to do the photography safely). Combined with the detail offered by the Google Cultural Institute, the opportunities for cultural education are rich.

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