Users of the search engine will now be able to navigate around the snow-capped mountains, coastline and icebergs of Antarctica – a place that few people ever get to visit in person. They will also be able to spot several penguin colonies captured by Google’s cameras.
The expansion to Antarctica means that Street View is now present on every one of the world’s seven continents. Brian McClendon, the vice-president of engineering at Google Earth and Maps, announced Street View’s expansion. The service covers 25 countries on all of the world’s continents, and is also this week launching in Ireland and Brazil.
“We often consider Street View to be the last zoom layer on the map,” said Mr McClendon. “And a way to show you what a place looks like as if you were there in person, whether you’re checking out a coffee shop across town or planning a vacation across the globe.”
On the company’s blog yesterday, he wrote: “We hope this new imagery will help people in Ireland, Brazil, and even the penguins of Antarctica to navigate nearby, as well as enable people around the world to learn more about these areas.”
Speaking to the Guardian, Ed Parsons, Google’s geospatial technologist – “When I joined Google, I was fortunate to be asked what I wanted to be known as” – said the latest move was “hugely significant” and that the service would continue to expand.
“This allows you to visit places you don’t normally,” Parsons added. “One of the challenges we wanted to crack is to go to these remote places, and one of geo team at Google went to Antarctica so he took some kit and took some imagery. It’s called Street View, but there aren’t many streets in Antarctica! This allows people to understand the contrast between New York Times Square and being on the edge of a glacier looking at penguins.”
Launched in May 2007 in five US cities, Google Street View has gone on to map cities on every corner of the planet, attracting ire and admiration along the way. The panoramic imaging service allowing users to zoom in on daytime photographs of individual locations or properties, and navigate virtual streets at ground level.
However, its global expansion has upset privacy campaigners, who say that its exterior shots of people’s homes represent an unwarranted intrusion into their lives. Google has also been accused of collecting wifi data while its Street View trucks and trikes toured cities across the world taking photographs.
Parson said: “One of the things that caused us surprise was how different the various nations’ view of privacy were. So we had to change the way we operate to accommodate that. Germany is an extreme example, but no two countries are ever the same and we built those privacy considerations [for Germany].”
He continued: “In many ways new tech is always a little concerning to people. Like caller ID on [mobile] phones – that was concerning when it was a new thing, now it’s accepted and agreed to be a useful feature. You have to draw a contrast between how many people use and the minority that are relatively loud.”
“For us, it’s about enhancing the use of Google Maps and we know that that increases by 20% at least when Street View functionality is added, making it the most popular web-mapping site on the planet,” he added. [Google Blog via CBC and Guardian (UK)]