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Google Pedicab
July 15, 2009 6:17 AM   Subscribe

Everybody knows about the Google Van now, some love it, some hate it, but it has become an assumed condition now that, if you're near a street, Google Maps might have your picture (I'm at work!). Living further off the path might seem like a solution to avoid detection, but Google has stepped off the roadway and into more scenic routes with the Google Tricycle. Being unpowered and smaller allows Google to get their 360° photographs from vantage points other than the curb in front of your house. Google Street Views won't just include streets anymore: they plan to cover national parks, bicycle paths, college campuses, theme parks, any any other public place which isn't exactly van-friendly.
posted by AzraelBrown (58 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
*Googles "invest in pitch fork suppliers"*
posted by i_cola at 6:24 AM on July 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Vans and tricycles. So linear. They need to airdrop cameras in a thick blanket over the entire world.

You look up and the sky has disappeared. All you see is a layer of parachutes descending. From the parachutes hang cameras. As they descend, they photograph. The photograph is tagged with coordinates and uploaded to a router/repeater layer that is descending directly behind the cameras. These repeaters forward the signal, via satellite, to Google HQ.

When the cameras land, they continue taking pictures of whatever they see. Dirt, the bottom of a car, other cameras still falling. By chance, a lot of cameras will be pointing at storefronts and StreetView items of interest. These photos are automatically selected and stitched to form a coherent whole.

In two weeks, the cameras, repeaters and parachutes have biodegraded into a soil-enriching compost and bird feed. And another camera air-drop is schedules to look for changes.
posted by DU at 6:26 AM on July 15, 2009 [6 favorites]


Wow. I wouldn't want to haul that thing up a hill, that's for sure.

Still, really neat concept; I like the idea of being able to Street View a bike trail or park and check it out ahead of time a little. And I'm glad to see that they're doing more Street View rather than less — hopefully more footage added from public parks and other obviously public spaces will make it seem less voyeuristic and more practical.

Personally I've found Street View to be extremely useful during our recent search for a house; it's always worth double-checking those real estate photos against Street View to detect photoshopping or just clever camera placement. I suspect as more imagery gets added, many more uses will be found for it besides simply crusing around looking for someone who was naked inside of an open window.
posted by Kadin2048 at 6:30 AM on July 15, 2009


This is neat.

And for some reason, I really enjoyed viewing your link to Fargo, ND. I yearned for that street, for some reason.

That street is not particularly interesting, but the hidden beauty was the silence and the absence in it. I looked at it like I would the opening to a movie, or maybe the ending credits.

You've seen Good Will Hunting, right? At the end when his buddies give him that rebuilt rust-bucket and he drives off while Elliott Smith plays on the soundtrack? That pic of Fargo, ND is kind of like that.

I think I'll start a blog where I grab Google Van pics and do little stories about them.
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 6:30 AM on July 15, 2009 [7 favorites]


The driver of the google van (or bike) is the ultimate unsung hero. He's taking a picture of the entire world and he's the only one guaranteed not to be in it.

Unless there's two and they pass each other. But the evil masterminds at Google have probably developed advanced algorithms to prevent that.
posted by DU at 6:36 AM on July 15, 2009 [4 favorites]


I'm looking forward to Google Colonoscopy®
posted by Turtles all the way down at 6:37 AM on July 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm waiting for them to update North Terrace near the Art Gallery of South Australia because I was so googlevaned as I was waiting to cross the road. I'd just spent a whole 2 hours comprehensively doing the art gallery and the museum and the library.
posted by tellurian at 6:37 AM on July 15, 2009


And for some reason, I really enjoyed viewing your link to Fargo, ND. I yearned for that street, for some reason.

That street is the kind of place I hate.
posted by pracowity at 6:46 AM on July 15, 2009 [4 favorites]


I am confused as to how a picture of my home on the internet might be useful to burglars?
The only things that come to mind is that when they look at it and see the lights off, they might think I was on holiday at that very moment and break in. Or they might look at my nice curtains and now that I am worth robbing. But that seems silly.

What irks me slightly is that the people of Broughton can get robbed multiple times in the period before Streetview, but any robberies that happen after it arrives will inevitably be blamed on Google. I wouldn't be surprised if they are already blaming Google for the thefts that have already occurred.

I've checked previous posts, and the comments sections, but haven't noticed an answer to this question:

Let's say I wanted to rob some place - is there a way that street view could help me?
posted by marmaduke_yaverland at 6:47 AM on July 15, 2009


Oh oh oh! I hope they have Mega Missiles!
posted by rokusan at 6:47 AM on July 15, 2009 [2 favorites]


Bah, if that was a real picture of Fargo it would have a guy scraping ice from a windshield.
posted by rokusan at 6:48 AM on July 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


I had to force myself to stay away from Google Maps since I was enjoying "walking down the street" way too much. It was like walking without all of the pesky leg moving, which just doesn't seem healthy.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 6:52 AM on July 15, 2009


You ain't seen nothing yet! I found a guy dressed all in black with a big silver 'G' on his chest down in my basement taking pictures. They're leaving no stone unturned!
posted by jamstigator at 6:55 AM on July 15, 2009


That's G-Loc. He's a tagger.
posted by rokusan at 6:56 AM on July 15, 2009 [2 favorites]


i'm in google street view. that's me in the black shirt next to my big russian friend in grey, walking back from lunch at my old job. it's the greatest geek trophy of all! i'm fucking internet famous!

we didn't see the van, we saw the chevy cobalt with the big red camera sticking out the top. i went up to the guy driving it around, they had a dell laptop set up with a specialized version of google maps running with a trail showing where he'd been.
posted by Mach5 at 7:04 AM on July 15, 2009


Let's say I wanted to rob some place - is there a way that street view could help me?

Sure. It means you can look for the insecure looking houses, check what kind of doors and windows they have, plan your entry and escape routes without the inconvenience of having to actually go there and maybe get spotted by the nosy neighbour. A virtual way of "casing the joint".
posted by Electric Dragon at 7:08 AM on July 15, 2009


Most of the people worried about Google Street View think it's real-time.
posted by xpermanentx at 7:12 AM on July 15, 2009 [9 favorites]


Google Maps 'Bike There'
posted by jcruelty at 7:26 AM on July 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


No matter what else you may think of Google, they're the only company in the world right now that I can think of that would attempt to photograph every square inch of the USA. I'll smile for the van when it comes, because they are, for better or worse, trying to change the world. That's something.
posted by saysthis at 7:45 AM on July 15, 2009 [2 favorites]


Google street view had a picture of my adolescent children playing in the front yard, which squicked me out a little bit. They were nice and responsive about removing it.
posted by Devils Rancher at 7:51 AM on July 15, 2009


This will not end well.
posted by tresbizzare at 7:52 AM on July 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


they're the only company in the world right now that I can think of that would attempt to photograph every square inch of the USA.

Don't forget the CIA. And they're also trying to change the world.
posted by pracowity at 7:52 AM on July 15, 2009 [3 favorites]


I am confused as to how a picture of my home on the internet might be useful to burglars?
The only things that come to mind is that when they look at it and see the lights off, they might think I was on holiday at that very moment and break in. Or they might look at my nice curtains and now that I am worth robbing. But that seems silly.
Or they could make a shortlist of houses meeting certain criteria (open top-floor windows reachable by easily scalable drainpipes, plenty of concealing vegetation, no sign of guard dogs, &c.)
posted by acb at 8:03 AM on July 15, 2009


I'll agree that this is just the next logical extension of mapping space that began as far back as--who? hominids?--put stick to ground to map out the surroundings. I find it vaguely interesting that I can see my kayaks in my back yard, which means that the aerial photo on Google came sometime between November and April. A static photo of my general surroundings won't show prospective home invaders the size of the incisors on my ferocious guard dog (those who know her just got a good chuckle) or where my guns are stored (I keep them locked some 350 miles away for safety sake).

I know some people who are working for Street Scene, and I like them, so I am generally disposed to approve. But once they show me on the crapper or sitting at a stop light with my digit up my nose, I'll probably be less favorably inclined.
posted by beelzbubba at 8:06 AM on July 15, 2009


photograph every square inch of the USA UK.
Others are at work too.
posted by tellurian at 8:09 AM on July 15, 2009


One of my favorite uses for Maps and Street View is to look up places I'm going to get a picture of my destination. It makes navigating in strange cities so much easier when I can match the building I'm looking for with the one in the photo.

And with a copilot using Google Maps on my iPhone to read off turns en route, it's like living in The Future. Well, actually, it's kind of like having a dashboard GPS without John Cleese's voice but nevermind that.
posted by ardgedee at 8:15 AM on July 15, 2009


Or they could make a shortlist of houses meeting certain criteria (open top-floor windows reachable by easily scalable drainpipes, plenty of concealing vegetation, no sign of guard dogs, &c.)

I think you give crooks a little too much credit for ingenuity. Our last house was burgled in the middle of the day with a dog in the house because we left the bathroom window in the back of the house open. Home invasions are crimes of opportunity, and usually don't rely on months of planning.
posted by SteveInMaine at 8:17 AM on July 15, 2009


I'm looking forward to Google Colonoscopy®
posted by Turtles all the way down at 6:37 AM on July 15


Epony... oh, never mind.

That's just gross.

posted by grouse at 8:18 AM on July 15, 2009 [2 favorites]


One of my favorite uses for Maps and Street View is to look up places I'm going to get a picture of my destination. It makes navigating in strange cities so much easier when I can match the building I'm looking for with the one in the photo.

I'll second that, and add that it's also useful for checking out real estate and neighborhoods in other areas of the country.
posted by SteveInMaine at 8:19 AM on July 15, 2009


My boyfriend was on the street when the Google van drove by, and now he relentlessly checks that intersection to see if he will appear in the next update.
posted by kimdog at 8:23 AM on July 15, 2009


A friend of mine was in Honolulu, a city which I had just visited a few month prior, and he was online chatting with me about looking for someplace to eat. He really enjoys asian food types, and I remembered that I'd visited a really great Vietnamese restaurant when I was there.

I could remember what the place looked like, and even sort of where it was, but could not find the name and had no luck at all using Google Maps restaurant search. (The fact that Waikiki has more restaurants per square foot than nearly anywhere else on the planet didn't help.)

Solution? Street View. I "took a walk" down the block of the not-at-all-a-main-street where I knew the restaurant was and had an answer within minutes. (Of course, it took me nearly an hour to come up with this solution, but that's another problem altogether.)

Now, if only they could manage to get the not-full-resolution satellite view fixed of my town. And get the photovan through our streets. We're not even that far away from the nearest city, but we're small enough that we have no granularity when it comes to Google.
posted by hippybear at 8:30 AM on July 15, 2009


I just spent 20 minutes using Google street view to explore the neighborhood of New Brunswick, NJ I lived in for many years seeing what's stayed the same and what's changed.

And longingly gazing at the picture of the grease trucks on College Ave.
posted by ShawnStruck at 8:45 AM on July 15, 2009


Will Toronto ever get Street View? Even my boring insignificant hometown in New Mexico has it.
posted by pravit at 8:47 AM on July 15, 2009


Also, do they hire locals to drive the Google van? Because looking at the street view coverage of my hometown, they managed to avoid most of the city proper, but drove around on every side street of the northern suburbs for no apparent reason.
posted by pravit at 8:51 AM on July 15, 2009




I use Google Earth to decide when to paint my house. When I can see the paint peeling off from space, its time.
posted by digsrus at 9:09 AM on July 15, 2009 [3 favorites]


I love looking at the first house we lived in when I was a kid...we moved out when I was 7. The little olive tree in the front yard is now twice as tall as the house. Also, checking out where she lives now, mom really needs to wash and/or paint the house. Maybe I should plan a visit. :)

I would love it if they added our local bike paths to Street View, or even just to the regular maps. They still show up as the railroad tracks they used to be...years and years ago.
posted by epersonae at 9:20 AM on July 15, 2009


Because looking at the street view coverage of my hometown, they managed to avoid most of the city proper, but drove around on every side street of the northern suburbs for no apparent reason.

You need to set your robots.txt file more correctly.
posted by the cydonian at 9:27 AM on July 15, 2009


You've seen Good Will Hunting, right? At the end when his buddies give him that rebuilt rust-bucket and he drives off while Elliott Smith plays on the soundtrack? That pic of Fargo, ND is kind of like that.

I think I'll start a blog where I grab Google Van pics and do little stories about them.

posted by Lipstick Thespian

Google Van Sant? I'm so, so sorry.

The Google Street View thing still manages to impress me. Managed to get the phone number of a (internet-siteless) sushi place by zooming in on their store front a few months ago.

Found my girlfriend walking down the street while I was looking for an address in her hometown. Several coworkers are in pics near our office in Madrid.

It's a truly useful and straightforward tool that I use pretty regularly and it still manages to feel like scifi.
posted by slimepuppy at 9:40 AM on July 15, 2009


Article mentions: Privacy International, a pressure group, has begun legal action against the company in an effort to bring down the mapping service.

Oh no they don't. I'm all for privacy, which Google rarely does impinge, but stupidity is something I will take up arms against in a heartbeat.
posted by JJ86 at 9:46 AM on July 15, 2009


I was impressed that Google blurred out my car's license plate automatically. And a little scary that photo recognition algorithms have gotten so good.
posted by octothorpe at 9:58 AM on July 15, 2009


I've used Street View to see if I had to move my car for street cleaning.
posted by kirkaracha at 10:13 AM on July 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


I've been thinking about taking a sabbatical in a few years and hiking the Appalachian Trail, I wonder if by then Google will have a human-wearable system to photograph the trail.
posted by Blackanvil at 10:16 AM on July 15, 2009


Google street view had a picture of my adolescent children playing in the front yard, which squicked me out a little bit.

I'm trying to think of the Bad Thing that could plausibly result from a Google Street View photo of adolescent children playing outside a house, but I'm drawing a blank. Care to expand a little on your thinking?
posted by yoink at 10:20 AM on July 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm looking forward to Google Colonoscopy®
posted by Turtles all the way down at 6:37 AM on July 15

Epony... oh, never mind.

That's just gross.


I don't get why that would be eponysterical. Is Google Colonoscopy® written in Logo?

right 90...
forward 100...
posted by madmethods at 10:27 AM on July 15, 2009


I've been thinking about taking a sabbatical in a few years and hiking the Appalachian Trail, I wonder if by then Google will have a human-wearable system to photograph the trail.

I think Google Maps intends to remain a family-friendly site, thank you very much. I suggest you take smutty suggestions like this elsewhere.
posted by yoink at 10:39 AM on July 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm standing out in the street with my netbook. Why can't I see myself in Google StreetView?

EPIC FAIL!
posted by blue_beetle at 11:23 AM on July 15, 2009


I'm standing out in the street with my netbook. Why can't I see myself in Google StreetView?

Are you an adolescent child? Google will automatically remove you if you're under the age of 13, per federal regulations.
posted by danny the boy at 11:29 AM on July 15, 2009


Love to see them attempt to bike that thing up some of the San Francisco stairways near my house. This is as close as they've gotten so far...

Also, Mapjack, when it's working, is so much better for street view stuff in the few cities they cover. They also already go many places that Google Streetview doesn't.
posted by flamk at 12:19 PM on July 15, 2009


madmethods: Turtling
posted by Foam Pants at 12:20 PM on July 15, 2009


"I'm trying to think of the Bad Thing that could plausibly result from a Google Street View photo of adolescent children playing outside a house"

The only thing I can think of is if you had kidnapped them and they were recognized, you would be in big trouble.
I would also like to hear a rational explanation, but I doubt there is one.
posted by 2sheets at 1:49 PM on July 15, 2009


I'm looking forward to Google Colonoscopy®

Googletse?
posted by darkstar at 3:19 PM on July 15, 2009


I just saw the Google tricycle today on my ride. It was at 65th turning onto the Burke-Gilman trail (near Magnuson park in Seattle). It was pretty big and awkward looking - my first thought was wtf is that? Then I saw the logo...
posted by shrabster at 3:49 PM on July 15, 2009


I looked up my old college town which previously had zero streetview pictures available and had to laugh out loud. You see, that town is so full of counter-intuitive, one-way streets, google has so far only made what seems to be the most convoluted and sparse trail of street views.

They even have one "street" mapped which consists of about a block before it turns into a parking lot surrounded by a dorm on one side and a marching band field on the other. They fail however, to get views of the basketball arena and fine arts center on a major street a block away. Similarly they miss the Student Center, library and otherwise central hub of the campus on the other side of the approximately six square blocks that make up the entire campus.

Don't worry, Google. You'll get it. I lived there for five years and still had to carefully plan my way through the subdivisions to get anywhere directly.
posted by Kimothy at 3:59 PM on July 15, 2009


shrabster: I just saw the Google tricycle today on my ride.

Rephrase that: today, on your ride, the Google tricycle saw you...
posted by AzraelBrown at 4:00 PM on July 15, 2009 [2 favorites]


In Soviet Russia...
posted by darkstar at 5:09 PM on July 15, 2009


Will Toronto ever get Street View? Even my boring insignificant hometown in New Mexico has it.

Apparently Canada is in the works. Wikipedia says the vans have been spotted up here since March. It also records this complaint from a columnist in Saskatoon who saw the vans around then:

"What worries me more than any loss of privacy is the prospect of presenting to the world a highly unflattering impression of Canadian cities. With the possible exception of Victoria, they do not show off well in the spring. Google could not have picked a more inauspicious time to do its scanning. Saskatoon is unfortunately typical. For Google to record its images of the city at this most visually unappealing time of year is like photographing a beautiful woman who has just awakened from a six-month coma."
posted by Beardman at 5:59 PM on July 15, 2009


There are good and bad things to be said about Google taking pictures of your home and slapping them up on the net, but historians will certainly be grateful if Google keeps the old pictures. In 2109, it would be very nice to be able to Google-stroll down 100-year-old city streets, and to stop in one place and watch it change through the years. And considering that all the Google street photos together, a hundred years from now, will surely fit on a freckle and cost about as much to make, there is no good reason not to preserve this data. Local historians everywhere should be emulating Google -- strolling or driving through neighborhoods with a cameras running -- and storing their pictures away for the future. Link this stuff to interviews with residents and you have magic.
posted by pracowity at 11:06 PM on July 15, 2009 [2 favorites]


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