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Walking the streets of Google
May 29, 2007 8:13 PM   Subscribe

The most amazing Google thing in awhile launched today. Walk the streets of New York, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Denver, and Miami using Google's new Street View. You can look and move in any direction, and the detail is good enough to read license plates. It is getting lots of attention, though it makes some people a little afraid and has others scrambling. [Requires Flash. Click on the city names, really, it is worth it.]
posted by blahblahblah (107 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite

 
Welcome to the future, man.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 8:16 PM on May 29, 2007


I can't seem to go inside the buildings and look inside women's dressing rooms...
posted by Burhanistan at 8:18 PM on May 29, 2007 [1 favorite]


Oops, my Denver , Miami, and Street View links were off - could someone fix them?
posted by blahblahblah at 8:18 PM on May 29, 2007


I'm figuring by winter they'll have added enough space to GMail to get the buffer on Google Teleport working.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 8:20 PM on May 29, 2007


The future was yesterday.

We've now gone to plaid.
posted by Alex404 at 8:23 PM on May 29, 2007 [2 favorites]


Soon enough there will be enough cameras where this will all be real time.
posted by Eekacat at 8:25 PM on May 29, 2007


This would be even cooler if whole countries were mapped this way (not just cities)... We could zoom from New York City to Los Angeles, hitting all the sight-seeing spots in between.
posted by amyms at 8:27 PM on May 29, 2007


This really brings me back to living in New York City, a large part of the experience of which is made up of wandering the streets not going in anywhere because everything's too expensive.
posted by HeroZero at 8:30 PM on May 29, 2007 [1 favorite]


mmm, more google wanking
posted by caddis at 8:31 PM on May 29, 2007 [1 favorite]


I'm guessing all the billboards and signage in Street Views 2.0 will be replaced by Google ads.
posted by Kibbutz at 8:35 PM on May 29, 2007


Wow that's amazing.
posted by empath at 8:36 PM on May 29, 2007


OMG! Here's the house I used to live in!

Wow.
posted by PercussivePaul at 8:38 PM on May 29, 2007


I'm scared for my children. Seriously.
posted by serazin at 8:38 PM on May 29, 2007 [1 favorite]


I tried looking at some Crackton-type areas to see if I could find some very pissed-off drug-dealing gang members glaring at a heavily instrumented car, but no dice.
posted by hodyoaten at 8:38 PM on May 29, 2007


We could zoom from New York City to Los Angeles, hitting all the sight-seeing spots in between.

Pray tell -- what would those spots be in the fly-overs? The Corn Palace? Claude Bell's Dinosaurs and the Grand Canyon?
posted by ericb at 8:39 PM on May 29, 2007


I can get within a two minute walk of the house I grew up in. That's cool and creepy at the same time.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 8:39 PM on May 29, 2007


I should also point out that if anyone wants to share a location, they need to click on the "link to this page" link in the upper right hand corner to get a URL, which preserves perspective as well as location. You can also zoom in the street view.

For example: Knishes!!!
posted by blahblahblah at 8:42 PM on May 29, 2007


Sweet, I finally got to see The Color Purple on Broadway!
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 8:43 PM on May 29, 2007 [4 favorites]


That was so cool I forgot to snark.
posted by brain_drain at 8:46 PM on May 29, 2007 [1 favorite]


I can't get this stuff to work on my old computer. Will somebody please hook up a webcam to a helmet, burn that to a DVD, and send it to my P.O. box? If y'all operatives tell me where you are I'll tell you what to spy on for me.

First suggestion: Wal-Mart headquarters.
posted by davy at 8:48 PM on May 29, 2007


Thats a super cool feature, but a bit disturbing too... You can zoom right in close (real close) on the street level play yard of the school where I teach. Thankfully, the photos are from last July. Anyone know how often they update that sort of thing?
posted by blaneyphoto at 8:50 PM on May 29, 2007


Earlier today I was watching the justin.tv website that was FPPd earlier today... he was walking down the street in SF and I Googled one of the signs I saw... I then was able to follow him verbatim in Google Streets. That was very surreal.
posted by hodyoaten at 8:52 PM on May 29, 2007


Neat! I remember A9 did something a lot like this a few years ago, but they seem to have taken it down. (A9's data covered my city, which Google's doesn't. Pfui.)
posted by hattifattener at 8:53 PM on May 29, 2007


Hah. They caught the security guard at my office building having a smoke. Awesome. I'm going to have to show it to him tomorrow.
posted by yeoz at 8:53 PM on May 29, 2007


Earlier today I was watching the justin.tv website that was FPPd earlier today... he was walking down the street in SF and I Googled one of the signs I saw... I then was able to follow him verbatim in Google Streets. That was very surreal.

That is kind of impressive. It's as if you came up as close as currently humanly possible to the threshold of actually doing something while really not doing anything at all. A few more increments and the Singularity will be gushing.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:55 PM on May 29, 2007 [3 favorites]


Pray tell -- what would those spots be in the fly-overs? The Corn Palace? Claude Bell's Dinosaurs and the Grand Canyon?

Yes, exactly, ericb, all the goofy stuff most of us would never take the time, or the expense, to go see in person (well, except for the Grand Canyon of course).
posted by amyms at 8:58 PM on May 29, 2007


We've now gone to plaid.

That will cause a few wars before we figure it out.
posted by sebastienbailard at 8:58 PM on May 29, 2007


I can't see this, since it requires Flash, but it sounds a lot like a feature the Amazon A9 service used to have, which was inexplicably removed. (Given that this is Google, I'm sure the implementation is much slicker.) (Previously.) Even A9's basic and limited implementation was very cool; I'm kind of surprised Google hadn't jumped on the idea until now.

Also, it looks like Google Maps now has wireframes of buildings in city centers, presumably using the Sanborn data. When did that happen?
posted by enn at 8:59 PM on May 29, 2007


How old are these? Anyone's guess? Specifically NYC? And is anyone getting some streets that aren't well, right?
posted by geoff. at 9:02 PM on May 29, 2007


"How old are these?"

I know the one's of the school where I teach are approximately July of last year. And CBGB's still appears to be open, so... not recent.
posted by blaneyphoto at 9:08 PM on May 29, 2007


geoff,

Look out your window. They put up a new building. Just now.
posted by hackly_fracture at 9:09 PM on May 29, 2007 [1 favorite]


geoff, my corner has the Christmas lights up so that's an indication I suppose. Christmas 2006, from the looks of it.
posted by muckster at 9:10 PM on May 29, 2007


Pity the poor folks at Virtual City. I believe their focus was on cities Google hasn't hit yet (Toronto, Miami), but the clock's ticking until all their work is moot.
posted by bicyclefish at 9:12 PM on May 29, 2007


I can see my neighbor exiting our apartment building, which is frankly pretty creepy.
posted by whir at 9:12 PM on May 29, 2007


So google has thousands of camera-equipped SUVs or vans going up and down the streets like so many search-bots crawling the web. Have they implemented a regular caching, or photographing schedule like their search engine?
posted by Burhanistan at 9:14 PM on May 29, 2007


The SF photos would have to have been taken within the last two months, given that the building down the street they just finished constructing is there.
posted by cali at 9:36 PM on May 29, 2007


Pity the poor folks at Virtual City.

Yeah... I could have sworn someone did this for New York City a couple of years ago, but I can't remember who it was. That work would be moot too (or there's mutual mooting, or something).
posted by hodyoaten at 9:42 PM on May 29, 2007


This is pretty cool. The close-up aerial views at maps.live.com are pretty neat, as well. I can see our dog agility stuff on the lawn, though I haven't spotted anyone I know...yet.
posted by maxwelton at 9:48 PM on May 29, 2007


hodyoaten: I believe that was A9, as mentioned above, but that's been gone for a while now. Moots for everyone.
posted by bicyclefish at 9:50 PM on May 29, 2007


This is pretty cool. The close-up aerial views at maps.live.com are pretty neat, as well.

Yeah if you don't mind using IE, the Live.com isometric view of New York with real aerial photos, is something to behold.
posted by blahblahblah at 9:55 PM on May 29, 2007 [1 favorite]


This is cool, I'm reliving my honeymoon in SF.
posted by planetkyoto at 9:58 PM on May 29, 2007


posted by geoff. How old are these? Anyone's guess?

I know for a fact my neighborhood was photographed within the past four months.
posted by fandango_matt at 10:12 PM on May 29, 2007


Better yet, real-time spying would be better: my Agent's headset should be live-streaming -- and s/he should buy me a better computer. "Zoom in there on that puppy; is that a Cairn Terrier or some kind of schnauzer?"
posted by davy at 10:17 PM on May 29, 2007


Between 25 and 30 years ago some people from the MIT Media Lab went to Boulder CO with a lot of camera equipment. They mounted a video camera on top of a car and drove all the streets of the town, plus made every possible turn in every direction. They then went into a lot of the shops (with permission) and took still photos.

Going back to MIT, they mastered a laserdisc (at that time, a quite expensive process) and combined it with a fairly primitive computer program (on the fairly primitive computers which were available at the time) connected to about three expensive laserdisc players which could be controlled by computer -- and made an interactive system which permitted someone to virtually drive around Boulder, and to stop and enter shops if they want. (The reason for three players was that as you approached an intersection the two which weren't currently being viewed would speculatively seek to two of the possible route choices, with the currently-playing player to show the third. That meant you could "drive" around without any pauses.)

In the 1980's I lived on the same street as the professor from MIT who was responsible for that, and he gave me a copy of that laserdisc. Damned if I know what became of it.

Sounds like Google has taken a page from MIT's book. If Google tries to patent this, MIT is prior art.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 10:30 PM on May 29, 2007


"This really brings me back to living in New York City, a large part of the experience of which is made up of wandering the streets not going in anywhere because everything's too expensive."

Ahem,

"every little thing is expensive
except the talk of course is cheap
"

This message brought to you by flapjax industries, where we're not afraid to self-link!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 10:45 PM on May 29, 2007


PagesJaunes has been giving out "street views" for a *long* time. Granted, their maps aren't as fascinating to look at, but they work well and are very practical.
posted by gsb at 11:01 PM on May 29, 2007


Wow, the shots near my condo must've been pretty recent, no more than a month or so old since that was when I finally put curtains up. I can see right into some of the windows of my neighbors. Good thing too, because God knows what I was doing when they were taking those pictures.
posted by gyc at 11:02 PM on May 29, 2007


Based on the comics in the window here, this SF pic was narrowed down to sometime between 4/25 and 5/1. Like 2007. Like a month ago.
posted by DonnieSticks at 11:11 PM on May 29, 2007


the absence of Los Angeles from this feature makes jonson cry.
posted by jonson at 11:28 PM on May 29, 2007


the absence of Los Angeles from this feature makes jonson cry.

When they stop car jacking the Google bots, then you can have your street views.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:30 PM on May 29, 2007 [4 favorites]


St Louis isn't in there. How lame. St Louis, that is. That street vew is very cool.
posted by slogger at 11:31 PM on May 29, 2007


Here's an easy way to tell when the pictures were taken.
posted by fandango_matt at 11:38 PM on May 29, 2007


the absence of Los Angeles from this feature makes jonson cry.
posted by jonson


Well, suburban sprawl is only interesting for so long...
posted by Eekacat at 11:47 PM on May 29, 2007


It's like Myst, except outside my apartment.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 11:49 PM on May 29, 2007 [1 favorite]


The photos on O'Farrell and Powell in San Francisco are at the most, two or three weeks old. There is a new storefront there that didn't exist/was different before May 14 or so.
posted by flamk at 12:22 AM on May 30, 2007


Does noone remember DizzyCity?

I had great trouble getting this to work in Firefox 2.0, btw. Couldn't get the Street View to pop up, or got a blank Street View bubble. Other times, it popped up when I was just trying to zoom in (oh, and I have already been hating on the GMaps click-and-drag-rectangle zoom interface, which interferes with the drag-the-map-over-here interface).

Also, it's really funny how all the Manhattan street corners are marked NE, SE, NW, SW. Don't they know that people navigate "up" and "down" and "across"? Also, it's enormously frustrating not to be able to look up to identify where you are.
posted by dhartung at 12:45 AM on May 30, 2007


Heh. I grew up in San Francisco. Google's got a pic of my bedroom.

Wild.
posted by effugas at 1:13 AM on May 30, 2007


Follow the red sedan down Lombard Street.

Google poorly exposed postcard service.

The guy sitting down in front of Saks on the corner opposite Union Square. Is that the song-and-dance man in the tuxedo I saw there 10 years ago? Anyone know his name? Is he on YouTube?
posted by planetkyoto at 1:42 AM on May 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


hodyoaten writes 'I tried looking at some Crackton-type areas to see if I could find some very pissed-off drug-dealing gang members glaring at a heavily instrumented car, but no dice.'

Traditionally, The Man generally shows up at Lexington and 125th Street, but all I see are people waiting, as usual.

I also checked out the spot outside the Bodega at Avenue B and Second, but the guys selling clean works seem to have been replaced by a Duane Reade! WTF!
posted by PeterMcDermott at 1:52 AM on May 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


For a while I was wondering how many photographers they must have run over before I realised they must have used a camera mounted on the roof of a car. Driving every street in the city taking pictures every 10 metres - without getting lynched by either the following vehicle - or anybody else - must have made been the source of a few interesting experiences.
posted by rongorongo at 3:56 AM on May 30, 2007


Is there a "scary" flag?
posted by tehloki at 3:58 AM on May 30, 2007


I was looking for the World Famous Bushman, but it looks like he might have been taking a break.

Dang this is cool.
posted by vagabond at 4:08 AM on May 30, 2007


I noticed this yesterday when I was looking for a place to have a gyro near Shea Stadium. "Hey, what's this Street View button?" And so I came to eat at Gyro World, which had a pretty great gyro, if anyone was wondering, and didn't require crossing the street, like Fontana would have.
posted by uncleozzy at 5:39 AM on May 30, 2007 [2 favorites]


Ugh. I'm glad I live in Philly. This is yucky.
posted by footnote at 5:52 AM on May 30, 2007


Harrumph. I looked up my old address on Google the other day and discovered it was on the federal prosecutor's list of busted crack houses. Nice.
posted by etaoin at 6:13 AM on May 30, 2007


It looks like the Harlem pictures were taken sometime last summer, as my air conditioner is in the window.
posted by splatta at 6:15 AM on May 30, 2007


Takes me back to my college days...except I think the bluish haze was thicker then.
posted by kittyprecious at 6:34 AM on May 30, 2007


I'm kind of reminded of recent flying drone stories, not because they are equivalent necessarily, just in terms of 'big leaps' from otherwise small increments.
posted by peacay at 6:42 AM on May 30, 2007


That is absolutely wonderful. I just "walked" down two of my favorite avenues in Manhattan. THANK YOU GOOGLE OVERLORDS.
posted by cavalier at 7:13 AM on May 30, 2007


They seemed to get a bit bored in Miami, however, probably due to the sprawl versus something tight and organized like Manhattan. Avenues and major streets just stop in chunks and then start again.

And when I say 'they', I'm guessing these 'Immersive.com' folks.
posted by cavalier at 7:23 AM on May 30, 2007


I remember seeing the fleet of trucks go by a few months ago and thinking, "I bet that's Google!"
posted by rikschell at 7:54 AM on May 30, 2007


There's some wierd gaps in San Francisco. They didn't get most of Valencia street (where many mefites spend a lot of their time), despite covering the rest of the Mission district.

I suppose I find it a bit creepy because I was relieved that my house was one of the gaps.

As I was "walking" down North beach and the Tenderloin and the Mission and such I was also wondering just how happy those guys are to be photographed coming out of a strip club.
posted by vacapinta at 8:02 AM on May 30, 2007


I've just spent a few minutes 'walking' through my brother's former neighborhood in Berkeley, CA. Oh how I miss Berkeley.
posted by ninjew at 8:53 AM on May 30, 2007


Wow. When I can watch myself looking at Google, then I will crap my pants.

Until then, my pants remain fresh. And thankfully, I live somewhere I can't imagine Google ever having the remotest interest in mapping.

(It was neat to look around at the places I saw in New York, but uh, I've already seen them. I'm kind of afraid to look at places I haven't been because I might get lost.)
posted by grapefruitmoon at 9:53 AM on May 30, 2007


does somebody want to find a reflection so we can see what the vehicle looks like?
posted by thoughtslut at 9:57 AM on May 30, 2007


I'm waiting for the inevitable Google Streets-Spotters Blog where people find pictures of strange signs, people carrying strange things, people making out, crimes being committed etc....
posted by vacapinta at 10:14 AM on May 30, 2007


Another nice feature they added to maps is the "Avoid Highways" option.
posted by drstein at 10:26 AM on May 30, 2007


OMG I just looked in the window at Katz's AND New Green Bo and I'm so hungry. Hey look, famous people walking out of Balthazar!
posted by luriete at 11:07 AM on May 30, 2007


Bit of the camera enclosure?
posted by casconed at 11:10 AM on May 30, 2007


does somebody want to find a reflection so we can see what the vehicle looks like?
posted by thoughtslut at 9:57 AM on May 30


I tried a bit but was unable to. I think part of the problem is that the cameras aren't taking a picture of the buildings at a 90 degree angle but more like 70 degrees. This means the reflections off glassy buildings are of *other* cars on the street, behind or in front of this one.

That doesn't mean there arent irregular reflections to be found, but it does make the task harder.
posted by vacapinta at 11:25 AM on May 30, 2007


Oh wait! I see it now. Its a black van!

Link
posted by vacapinta at 11:33 AM on May 30, 2007


Bit of the camera enclosure?

I think that looks more like a slightly misaligned panorama stich than a camera housing (note the angles).
posted by Burhanistan at 12:08 PM on May 30, 2007


I've seen several shots where peoples' faces are VERY clear. I wonder how long it'l be before Google gets sued...
posted by ChestnutMonkey at 1:00 PM on May 30, 2007


Here's Frank Chu for example...
posted by vacapinta at 1:06 PM on May 30, 2007


I wonder how long it'l be before Google gets sued...

There's no grounds to sue. You can be photographed in public and that photograph/film can be published without your consent. However, if it is for advertising purposes, consent is required.
posted by ericb at 1:12 PM on May 30, 2007


The Photographer’s Right

"In the United States, anything visible ("in plain view") from a public area can be legally photographed. This includes buildings and facilities, people, signage, notices and images. It is not uncommon for security personnel to use intimidation or other tactics to attempt to stop the photographer from photographing their facilities (trying to prevent, e.g., industrial espionage); however, there is no legal precedent to prevent the photographer so long as the image being photographed is in plain view from a public area.

In recent years, some building owners have claimed a copyright on the appearance of their building — such landmarks as the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Pittsburgh's PPG Place, etc. United States copyright law, however, explicitly exempts the appearance of standing buildings from copyright protection. See United States Code, Title 17, Chapter 1, § 120.a."*
posted by ericb at 1:18 PM on May 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


Eh, you may be able to photograph whoever you want, but can you publish it? I'd be pissed if, say, there were a picture of my kid outside of her daycare available for the world to find.
posted by footnote at 1:21 PM on May 30, 2007


Check out all of the pictures of people on sidewalks, at baseball games, playing frisbee in Central Park that are published daily in newspapers, weekly in magazines and posted to the Web. Same goes for video clips on the evening news, etc. Part of being "in public" is being "in plain view."
posted by ericb at 1:25 PM on May 30, 2007


Photos taken at MeFi meetups are posted online (legally) for all to see. No consent required by the photographer. If you don't want your picture taken shield yourself like Lindsay Lohan, Sean Penn and Hugh Grant are prone to do when leaving Mr. Chow's in Beverly Hills -- or, kindly ask that your picture no be taken. If that fails, leave the space you're in.
posted by ericb at 1:28 PM on May 30, 2007


Ericb - The question isn't whether you're in "in plain view" -- it's whether your image is being used for commercial purposes.
posted by footnote at 1:30 PM on May 30, 2007


And, if you're Lindsay try not to get caught passed-out drunk in your friend's car -- and later puking your guts out.
posted by ericb at 1:33 PM on May 30, 2007


Ericb - The question isn't whether you're in "in plain view" -- it's whether your image is being used for commercial purposes.

Exactly. You'll not that I pointed out above that consent is required for "advertising" purposes. I should have been broader and used the term "commercial" (which includes modelling, a film extra, etc.).
posted by ericb at 1:35 PM on May 30, 2007


Now, restraint could've been exercised to prevent posting drunken celebrity pics.
posted by Burhanistan at 1:35 PM on May 30, 2007


*You'll note*
posted by ericb at 1:35 PM on May 30, 2007


Ok, here's the blog I was predicting...

Its early enough that someone can create a competitor though.
posted by vacapinta at 3:44 PM on May 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


I, Google overlords, blahbidioo.

It does make me uncomfortable that you can literally look directly (I mean directly. As in you can tell what houseplants I have) into my window. You can't see anything, and no one would want to look anyway and it's an irrational fear since hundreds if not thousands of people walk past my window anyway. And the pictures in my neighborhood of Rockridge were taken in autumn, (you can tell by the trees) not today or last night. And some people are waaaay more exposed then me, what with you being able to look directly into their faces instead of just their houses. And the pictures can be removed fairly easily, so what's the problem?

It's not a question of legality or even logical arguments at this point. I don't even know if I want the pictures taken down or should leave them up, which is Google's legal right (probably?) and I like the first amendment a lot. But still, I'm uncomfortable.

It's irrational but it's there.
posted by OrangeDrink at 5:04 PM on May 30, 2007


er, and by autumn I mean spring.
posted by OrangeDrink at 6:30 PM on May 30, 2007


vacapinta: There is also Wired blog using custom subreddit with thumbnail images and voting. And from there are linked two more blogs.
posted by b. at 7:39 PM on May 30, 2007


Too bad they had to drive through Manhattan so quickly, most of the shots are blurred and the details lost.
posted by Poagao at 2:38 AM on May 31, 2007


This is science fiction. As a more "mature" person, i.e. in their '50s, I can remember not that long along when if you told someone you could one day see a street view of any city the way you now can, people would assume you were on some sort of hallucinogenic. Seriously people, don't you just have an awesome sense of wonder at what is happening here? I am in awe. Yes, it is creepy, yes I am p**d that my city isn't included, and yes, I can find any number of faults with this, but geez, let us all just drop our collective jaws, and appreciate the wonder of it all. Amazing.
posted by vac2003 at 4:37 AM on May 31, 2007


Heh. Yeah, vac2003, I sometimes feel that way about certain aspects of the computer age we live in, and am occasionally tempted to make comments such as yours. But then I think: "THE KIDS WILL LAUGH AT ME!"
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:53 AM on May 31, 2007


Caught On Google Maps
"People are snapped sunbathing, exiting strip clubs and jaywalking on the new Google Maps Street View feature. Google sent out a van outfitted with a battery of 360-degree cameras to capture street level images, and all sorts of human behavior was picked up as a result. The cat lady, for one, is very unhappy."
posted by ericb at 7:48 AM on May 31, 2007


From this BoingBoing thread:
If you hit "Street View help" from the image window, there's a link at the bottom that allows you to "Report inappropriate image." One of the options is "this image infringes on my privacy."
posted by kirkaracha at 10:14 AM on May 31, 2007


Boingboing made a post about the vehicle and camera that took the pics, for those interested.
posted by fings at 11:45 AM on May 31, 2007


“Hi! I'm from Google. I'm a Googlebot! I will not kill you.”

Paul Ford's funny story is getting less funny and more darkly predictive as the years go by.

Still, this shit is pretty cool.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:06 PM on May 31, 2007


This is a step closer to M.I.T's Aspen Movie Map.
posted by ericb at 5:23 PM on May 31, 2007


Google hits streets, raises privacy concerns -- "Has company gone too far in its effort to make the world more accessible?"
posted by ericb at 4:46 PM on June 1, 2007


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