Google Street View

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Google Street View
GoogleStreetViewCar Subaru Impreza at Google Campus.JPG
A Google Maps Camera Car
Initial release May 25, 2007; 7 years ago (2007-05-25)
Stable release Release 124 / August 20, 2014; 10 days ago (2014-08-20)
Available in Multiple languages
Website Google Street View

Google Street View is a technology featured in Google Maps and Google Earth that provides panoramic views from positions along many streets in the world. It was launched in 2007 in several cities in the United States, and has since expanded to include cities and rural areas worldwide. Streets with Street View imagery available are shown as blue lines on Google Maps.

Google Street View displays panoramas of stitched images. Most photography is done by car, but some is done by tricycle.

History and features

Streetview had its origins in 2001 with the The Stanford CityBlock Project, a Google-sponsored Stanford University research project. The project ended in June 2006, and its technology was folded into StreetView.[1]

  • 2007: Launched on 25 May in the United Sates using Immersive Media technology.
  • 2008: In May Google announces that it was testing face-blurring technology on its photos of the busy streets of Manhattan.[2] The technology uses a computer algorithm to search Google's image database for faces and blurs them.[3] Street View integrated into Google Earth 4.3, the Maps application on the Apple iPhone, and the Maps application for S60 3rd Edition. In November "pegman" is introduced. If this is dropped on the map the Street View opens and takes over the whole map window.
  • 2009: introduction of full-screen option. Smart Navigation introduced allowing users to navigate around the panoramas by double-clicking with their cursor on any place or object they want to see.[4]
  • 2010: indoor views of businesses available.[5] Google invites users to contribute panoramas of their own using gadgets with Android 4.2. Google highlights user-contributed panoramas with blue circle icons on Maps. The company also created a website to highlight places in the world where one can find them.[6]
  • 2013: Business interior views are shown as small orange circles. Businesses such as shops, cafes and other premises can pay a photographer to take panoramic images of the interior of their premises which are then included in Street View.[7]
  • 2014: Past Street View images of the same location may be browsed with a timeline tool to observe a location's change over time.[8]

Data capturing equipment

  • Cameras: Google uses the a set of nine Elphel cameras[9] to capture a 360° view at a height of 2.5–3.0 meters.[10]
  • Global Positioning System
  • Three laser range scanners from Sick AG for the measuring of up to 50 meters 180° in the front of the vehicle.[11] These are used for recording a rough 3D model of the surroundings, enabling faux-3D transitions between distinct panoramas where the environment images are momentarily mapped onto this 3D model while being crossfaded to create an animated perspective change as the user travels from one panorama to another.
  • 3G/GSM/Wi-Fi antennas for scanning 3G/GSM and Wi-Fi hotspots.[12]
  • Vehicles: Data recording equipment is usually mounted on the roof of a car. In October 2008, Google introduced the Street View Trike, a pedal tricycle with a 4th generation camera mounted to take images where cars cannot reach, including footpaths and dirt tracks.[13] The 250-pound, 9-foot long tricycles are piloted by athletes.[14] In 2010, Google introduced a snowmobile with a 4th generation camera mounted to take images on the Whistler Blackcomb Ski Slopes in preparation for the winter olympics in Vancouver, Canada.[15]

Camera quality comparison

Prior low resolution photo (used from April 2007 – September 2010)
New high resolution (HD) photo (used from April 2008 – present)
Prior low resolution photo (used from April 2007 – September 2010) New high resolution (HD) photo (used from April 2008 – present)

Google has used three types of car-mounted cameras to take Street View photographs. Generations 1–3 were used to take photographs in the United States. The shadows caused by the 1st, 2nd and 3rd generation cameras are occasionally viewable in images taken in mornings and evenings. The first generation was superseded and images were replaced with images taken with 2nd and 3rd generation cameras. Second generation cameras were used to take photographs in Australia. The new 4th generation cameras will be used to completely replace all images taken with earlier generation cameras. 4th generation cameras take near-HD images and deliver much better quality than earlier cameras. Even though 4th generation cameras were in use as early as April 2008, Google used older cameras for many areas as late as October 2009 for Street View and as late as September 2010 for Museum View.

The above shows a comparison of different generations of the Street View cameras. The first image was taken with the 2nd generation Street View camera and the second image was taken with the 4th generation camera. The 4th generation camera provides clearer, sharper, and more vivid images than its predecessors. In most of Europe, for example, images were taken with the 4th generation camera as they were taken later. Images taken with 1st, 2nd, and 3rd generation cameras are gradually being phased out and replaced by images taken with 4th generation cameras. Eventually, all low resolution images will be replaced with HD images.


When not in use, Pegman sits atop the Google Maps zoom controls. He has appeared at Google events, such as the launch of Street View in France in 2008. Occasionally Pegman dresses up for special events or is joined by peg friends in Google Maps. Some of these icons stay in Google Maps for specific locations, such as the penguin for Street View imagery of Half Moon Island, Antarctica.[16]

Privacy concerns

To protect people's privacy and anonymity, Google Street View censors automobile license plates and people's faces by blurring them.[17] This blurs also texts on many other signs. Privacy advocates have objected to the servce, pointing to views found to show men leaving strip clubs, protesters at an abortion clinic, sunbathers in bikinis, and people engaging in activities visible from public property in which they do not wish to be seen publicly.[18] Google maintains that the photos were taken from public property; however, an individual taking pictures of private property using a ladder to gain a view not normally available to a pedestrian would be prosecuted for invasion of privacy or harassment in many jurisdictions worldwide. Google has yet to address this concern. The service also allows users themselves to flag inappropriate or sensitive imagery for Google to review and remove.[19] In May 2010, it was revealed that Google had collected and stored payload data from unencrypted Wi-Fi connections as part of Street View.[20] German authorities are considering legal action while the Foreign Minister said "I will do all I can to prevent it." Australian police have also been ordered to investigate.[21]

The concerns have led to several temporary bans of Street View in countries around the world.

  • Australia: In 2010, Google Street View ceased operations in Australia, following months of investigations from Australian authorities.[22] However, this cessation has since ended, with Google announcing plans to continue production on May 4, 2011[23] and subsequently releasing updated Street View imagery for Australian towns and cities on July 27, 2011.[24]
  • Germany: In 2011, Google stopped taking Street View images in Germany.[25]
  • India: In 2011, Google stopped taking street images in India, after receiving a letter from the local authorities.[26]
  • Canada: Street View cars had been spotted as early as September 2007, in Montreal, though service for Canada was delayed while attempting to settle with the Canadian government over its privacy laws.

Third-party use of images

Fine-art photographers have selected images for use in their own work.[27] Although the images may be pixelated, the colours muddy, and the perspective warped, the photographs have been published in book form and exhibited in art galleries.[28] Michael Wolf won an honourable mention in Daily Life in the 2011 World Press Photo competition for some of his work using Google Street View.[29] Mishka Henner was short-listed for the 2013 Deutsche Börse Photography Prize in November 2012 for his series 'No Man's Land', which depicts sex workers at rural roadside locations.[30]

Swedish programmer Anton Wallén developed a game called GeoGuessr, which places players into a Google Street View and has them guess its location.[31]


In June 2012, Google announced that it has captured 20 petabytes of data for Street View, comprising photos taken along 5 million miles of roads, covering 39 countries and about 3,000 cities.[32] Coverage extends to most Cambridge Bay, Nunavut to Half Moon Island in the South Shetland Islands.[33]

Many places still have limited coverage, including:

See also


  1. ^ "The Stanford CityBlock Project: multi-perspective panoramas of city blocks". Retrieved 30 August 2014. 
  2. ^ Frome, Andrea (May 12, 2008). "Google's LatLong Blog". Retrieved August 27, 2010. 
  3. ^ Shankland, Stephen. "CNet article "Google begins blurring faces in Street View"". Retrieved August 27, 2010. 
  4. ^ "PC World article "Google Street View Gets Smart Navigation"". June 5, 2009. Retrieved August 27, 2010. 
  5. ^ Nalawadi, Shailesh (2012-09-18). "An easier way to find panoramic interior imagery in Google Maps". Retrieved 2013-12-23. 
  6. ^ "Contribuiți – Street View – Hărţi Google". Retrieved January 19, 2013. 
  7. ^ Smith, Mark (2013-05-03). "Google Street View gets peek inside Sheffield university buildings | Technology |". London: Guardian. Retrieved 2013-06-15. 
  8. ^ "Go back in time with Street View" Google Lat Long. 23 April 2014
  9. ^ "Elphel Cameras used for Street View". Google. August 4, 1961. Retrieved July 30, 2012. 
  10. ^ "Google using Street View technology to create detailed virtual walking tour of 400,000 military graves at Arlington National Cemetery". Daily Mail (London). 2013-11-11. Retrieved 2013-12-12. 
  11. ^ Cummins, Mark. "Google Street View – Soon in 3D?". Educating Silicon. Retrieved January 3, 2012. 
  12. ^ Turnbull, James. "A couple of thoughts on Street View". Retrieved January 5, 2012. 
  13. ^ Andrews, Robert (18 May 2009). "Meet Google Street View's latest weapon: a tricycle". The Guardian (London). 
  14. ^ "Google Street View goes off road with tricycle to capture more images". L.A. Times. March 1, 2011. [dead link]
  15. ^ "Street View Snowmobile". Google. August 4, 1961. Retrieved August 27, 2010. 
  16. ^ "Who is Pegman?". Retrieved 30 August 2014. 
  17. ^ "Privacy and Security – About – Google Maps". Retrieved 2014-02-28. 
  18. ^ MacDonald, Calum (June 4, 2007). "Google's Street View site raises alarm over privacy". The Herald. Retrieved April 1, 2009. [dead link]
  19. ^ Mills, Elinor (June 3, 2007). "Google's street-level maps raising privacy concerns". USA Today. Retrieved April 1, 2009. 
  20. ^ "Google admits it sniffed out people's data". TechEye. May 17, 2010. 
  21. ^ "Google accused of criminal intent over StreetView data". BBC Online. June 9, 2010. Retrieved June 10, 2010. 
  22. ^ "Google street view cars no longer operational in Australia – Computer – November 9, 2010". Computer October 29, 2010. Retrieved December 11, 2010. 
  23. ^ Eustace, Alan. "Privacy Impact Assessment for Street View in Australia". Google Inc. Retrieved August 12, 2011. 
  24. ^ Foster, Andrew. "Updates to Street View in Australia". Google Inc. Retrieved August 12, 2011. 
  25. ^ McCracken, Harry (April 11, 2011). "Alas, There Will Be No More Google Street View in Germany". Retrieved December 16, 2011. 
  26. ^ "India IT hub orders Google to suspend Street View service – International Business Times". June 21, 2011. Retrieved December 16, 2011. [dead link]
  27. ^ Rickard, Doug (2010). A New American Picture. Köln: White Press. OCLC 727797183. 
  28. ^ "The street views Google wasn't expecting you to see – in pictures". The Guardian (London). February 20, 2012. Retrieved February 20, 2012. 
  29. ^ Laurent, Olivier (February 11, 2011). "World Press Photo: Is Google Street View Photojournalism?". British Journal of Photography. 
  30. ^ Deutsche Börse Photography Prize. Accessed 15 March 2013
  31. ^ Hartnett, Kevin (May 17, 2013). "If dropped randomly on earth, would you know where you were?". The Boston Globe (Boston). Retrieved May 20, 2013. 
  32. ^ Farber, Dan. "Google takes Street View off-road with backpack rig". CNET. Retrieved 7 September 2012. 
  33. ^ "BBC News – Google Street View hits Antarctic". BBC. October 1, 2010. Retrieved December 16, 2011. 

External links