Oh MY GOD!!! How cool is this?
January 27, 2005 10:07 AM   Subscribe

A9 yellow pages features PHOTOS!!! So A9 starts doing yellow pages, and I'm thinking, big deal, right? But then, I think, ok I'll check out some Italian restaurants near my work, cause it's close to lunch. And that's, well, ok, but what's the big deal? But then, I click on one of the little numbers in the map, AND THERE'S A PHOTO of the restaurant, right there! And little arrows, so I can WALK UP AND DOWN THE STREET!!! And here's how they did it! (via kottke)
posted by jasper411 (70 comments total)
Oops - I just realized that you have to log in with a location, but I can't see how to pass that along in the link. So anyway, to duplicate what I got, log in with zip code 94110.
posted by jasper411 at 10:10 AM on January 27, 2005

I just typed Hooters into the search field.
posted by disgruntled at 10:14 AM on January 27, 2005

Phoenix is, of course, not included, despite being bigger than Boston, Dallas, Denver, Seattle, Portland, or San Francisco. Also bigger than Seattle, Denver, or Portland: my perennially-ignored hometown of El Paso, Texas.
posted by kjh at 10:15 AM on January 27, 2005

Hmmm, I can see with the automated picure-taking.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 10:15 AM on January 27, 2005

Damn, "I can see one problem with the automated picture-taking".
posted by Armitage Shanks at 10:16 AM on January 27, 2005

It lets you vote on the best image on the block for each listing too. Pretty neat.
posted by chundo at 10:17 AM on January 27, 2005

That's a pretty amazing database of images. I could see a lot of fun ways to play with that data set, like creating seemless "tours" of neighborhoods. Does anyone care to take a crack at decoding the image naming convention? Here are three adjoining photo filenames (truncated to the areas of difference):
It would be fun to write a script that could scoop up a few blocks worth of photo data. Any cryptographers in the house?
posted by gwint at 10:24 AM on January 27, 2005

Eight exclamation points in the post, three in the title. That's a pretty exuberant FPP!!!

It doesn't have an image of my apartment, unfortunately. I was hoping it would, with me exiting the building.
posted by painquale at 10:27 AM on January 27, 2005

I searched for Bergdorfs in NYC. Then I walked down Fifth Avenue. This is really beautifully done. It was like a nice day, last summer, not the 16 degrees we are suffering with today.
posted by MotherTucker at 10:37 AM on January 27, 2005

Sorry for the gushing and exuberance. I was hungry and just amazed at the capability.

Metafilter - never post when hungry.
posted by jasper411 at 10:40 AM on January 27, 2005

Wait!!! I was wrong!!! My apartment IS in there!!!

Still no me in front, though. Just somebody's motorcycle.
posted by painquale at 10:41 AM on January 27, 2005

I posted some photos of my old neighborhood earlier today and got a rather freaked out message from a friend whose bicycle is in the photo... There are CLEAR images of people's faces in the photos as well (although not the ones I posted). These are all timestamped (internally) as well -- how long is it before we can search for PEOPLE via face recognition, license plate OCR from traffic cams, etc...?
posted by glider at 10:44 AM on January 27, 2005

About a year ago I watched a van outfitted with a bunch of sidemounted camera gear and those white GPS domes on the roof slowly crawl a street down here in Tucson.

They ran down both sides at about 1mph, stopping in front of each business for 10-15 seconds, then crawled on. Now I know what the heck they were doing...
posted by bhance at 10:46 AM on January 27, 2005

Cool. How long until they stop photographing cities, though? Mine's not on the list.
posted by scottq at 10:46 AM on January 27, 2005

I found my old house. It was fall in Atlanta. I also saw the neighborhood mexican place where somebody got foodpoising and died...

A real live trip down memory lane.... Thanks A9
posted by zpousman at 10:49 AM on January 27, 2005

If anyone wants a walking tour of Boston, just search for Dunkin Donuts and have a look at the pics. Should cover about 95% of the city.
posted by uncleozzy at 10:50 AM on January 27, 2005

Please explain to me why I should care about this "breakthrough." I go to restaurants for the food, not the decor.
posted by ParisParamus at 10:53 AM on January 27, 2005

Did anyone see the other feature of call over the internet? I can see that being kind of useful, since you just have to click and they'll call you back instead of having to dial yourself...
posted by chaz at 10:56 AM on January 27, 2005

kjh - Phoenix certainly is represented. For instance, I work here, and fixed the photo of the building this morning, since they had it of a building down the street.
posted by crawl at 10:58 AM on January 27, 2005

Paris - What if you haven't been to the restaurant before? Having an idea of what it looks like would certainly help you find it.

This is amazing.
posted by crawl at 10:59 AM on January 27, 2005

This is a classic Mission business pic.
Nice post BTW!
posted by numlok at 11:07 AM on January 27, 2005

Cool. Reminds me of a similar geocoded-photo database project mentioned before.
posted by theFlyingSquirrel at 11:09 AM on January 27, 2005

They'll build cities around this someday.
posted by kindall at 11:14 AM on January 27, 2005

One problem with the driveby nature by which the photos were gathered ican be seen here, where a bus got in the way. You can even see the ad on its side. Found on a search for comics in 90210, the first zip code that leapt to mind for some curious and unexplained reason.
posted by Sparx at 11:16 AM on January 27, 2005

I found my apartment building in Hells Kitchen.
posted by MotherTucker at 11:17 AM on January 27, 2005

Some of them (in Chicago at least) seem a bit off. The Empty Bottle, a bar near my home, comes up as a photo of a laundromat down the street a bit. And 1056 (another bar...what? stop looking at me like that) comes up down the block a bit also, at a residential home. But still, cooler then I was expecting it to be.
posted by monkey!knife!fight! at 11:17 AM on January 27, 2005

I hope this technology is incorporated into making a hyper-realistic Grand Theft Auto game some day.
posted by mullingitover at 11:28 AM on January 27, 2005

Anyone want to start an A9 dead pool?

Amazon is now taking pictures...of fully identifiable people...and cars...in public...without asking permission...and associating those pictures...with a business name...without permission of either the photographed or the business, for their own monetary gain.

Including taking pictures of buildings for which the building's appearance is obviously part of their trademark, again without permission.

As anyone who has ever tried to shoot a film in LA or NY can attest, there are specific laws against doing any of those things, much less in combination.

Some of those laws (e.g., against taking photos of a building which is part of a corporate identity) are dumb, but they're still laws.

Others of those laws (not taking pictures of people without their permission, and certainly not using those for monetary gain) are hella smart, and they are also still laws.

As soon as one person whose face or license plate appears in these photos (and there are obviously many thousands)
decides to sue, the only thing Amazon is going to have left is their one click patent and a cardboard box.

Holy crap, how can a company be so stupid?
posted by felix at 11:29 AM on January 27, 2005

WTF? I would have thought at at least a few people would have said, "By God, that's the best thing to happen to the Yellow Pages since non-smearing ink!" But, no. All we've got is a bunch of complainers.

This is damn cool.
posted by pmbuko at 11:35 AM on January 27, 2005

I think they're looking for users to help out with that, Monkey, I noticed the same thing.

Inner Town Pub on there as well? Just curious... no reason.
posted by manicroom at 11:41 AM on January 27, 2005

It's been around for a while -just not in the U.S.

I guess that doesn't count. PHOTOS!!!!
posted by gsb at 11:43 AM on January 27, 2005

brownpau: Not anymore ;)
posted by abcde at 11:47 AM on January 27, 2005

felix, I'd like you to find one example of such a law, or one example of a civil lawsuit that was found for the plaintiff.

These photographs are being taken on public streets. A business has the right to kick you out of their store for taking photos, but not to do it when you're just driving around (or walking on a sidewalk, or in your own apartment, or anywhere that isn't their public property).

That said, until they have photographs of my town, this is Not That Cool.
posted by Plutor at 11:51 AM on January 27, 2005

Might be illegal, but sure is helpful. May be some way to use AI processing to find and blur faces and license plates? All I know is I want some genius to build a virtual 3D walkthrough. How about the guys building the Virtual Toad Disney ride?
posted by icedancer at 11:53 AM on January 27, 2005

I'm sure it would be even cooler if Google had done it :P
posted by DBAPaul at 11:54 AM on January 27, 2005

see also (circa 01?) QDQ.com did a bunch of cities in France and Spain.
posted by shoepal at 11:56 AM on January 27, 2005

Sorry, the company is SNV and they are French.
posted by shoepal at 11:59 AM on January 27, 2005

Plutor, did you even look? There are laws at literally every level.
posted by felix at 12:16 PM on January 27, 2005

I hope this technology is incorporated into making a hyper-realistic Grand Theft Auto game some day.

It's been done, sort of. The Getaway, which is a driving/shooting game set in London used thousands of photographs for a very realistic London. Unfortunately, the game wasn't fantastic.

But it was real enough that the Pret-a-Manger on the corner of Charing Cross and Goodge was in it. And if you walked down Goodge, there was a photo shop where the Snappy Snaps is, and one of three generic pubs in the game whereever there was a real pub. It was pretty cool. Except that they blocked off a lot of streets everywhere so they wouldn't have to render everything.
posted by Mayor Curley at 12:25 PM on January 27, 2005

That's neat. Finding stuff in Manhattan when you only know the address can be hell, especially downtown and if you don't know the streets to well.

Why the hell should I care whether Amazon is breaking the law doing it? That's their problem.
posted by smackfu at 12:36 PM on January 27, 2005

They claim a nonexistent restaurant a bit down the street from me and show a picture of my building when you try to look at it.

Is there any way to just look at pictures instead of getting pictures when you try to look at businesses?
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 12:53 PM on January 27, 2005

This is cool, despite me not living in a covered city - I am close enough to Seattle to find wandering around there fun.

But... it needs work. People have been creating Virtual Walks since 1978 (I believe the first was videodisc based and was of Aspen, Colorado and done at MIT) and even those were more interactive than this. Things I cannot do: 1) see the other side of the street, 2) turn corners at intersections, 3) see where I am now on the map.

The "other businesses along" thing is cool, but too often it is confused by businesses being inside a suite of a building, and will just list other suites in the building.

Mayor Curley: that's Tottenham Court Road & Goodge (it changes into the TCR north of Oxford St.)
posted by pascal at 12:55 PM on January 27, 2005

What're you guys talking about? This isn't illegal at all! At the very worst, some company could sue for something, which is very different from illegality. What would they sue for anyway, trademark dilution? They'd be laughed out of court; this is clearly fair use. Besides, wouldn't businesses want this type of free advertising?
posted by painquale at 12:59 PM on January 27, 2005

Mayor Curley, so true! The Getaway was sort of boring, but the technology was too cool! I remember reading an article about how they did it but can't recall where...
posted by shoepal at 1:03 PM on January 27, 2005

Is there a way to browse only locations that have reviews already written?
posted by achmorrison at 1:03 PM on January 27, 2005


You have to understand 2 things:

1) Amazon is headquarted in Seattle. Don't you think they wanted to have their home city as one of the first catalogued?

2) The population of the city itself is far less meaningful than the population of the metro area. According to the 2000 U.S. census, the Seattle-Bellevue-Everett metro area has a population of about 2.43 million. The El Paso metro area has a population of about 680,000. So if you were choosing a place to start a business, wouldn't you choose the place with 3.5 times the potential number of customers? There's a reason why Seattle and Denver have 3 to 4 pro sports teams each and El Paso has none, and it's not because El Paso is being discriminated against.
posted by pitchblende at 1:11 PM on January 27, 2005

Austin isn't listed as one of the cities either, but they have photographed parts of the city, at least around campus.
posted by fourstar at 1:39 PM on January 27, 2005

Hey, there's my car!
(No, really.)
posted by sugarfish at 1:54 PM on January 27, 2005

felix - my reading of your link is that all the laws and regulations cited had to do with photos or filming of government parks, other land, or inside government buildings . In fact, the parent page is titled "Still Photography and Permits On US and California Public Land".

To repeat the question: Can you point to any law (or court case) involving photographs of businesses and residences, taken from the street?
posted by WestCoaster at 1:57 PM on January 27, 2005

This is cool!

It helps that I work in downtown Chicago where there are loads of photographed restaurants. : )
posted by SisterHavana at 2:55 PM on January 27, 2005

Perhaps I have the flu, but while this is an interesting concept, I'm not sure how practical it is for its intended use.
posted by ParisParamus at 3:18 PM on January 27, 2005

My scooter. Holy shit.

And I really want to know how Wilmington, North Carolina made it on the list of cities to photograph.

The photos are a few numbers off, though.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 4:14 PM on January 27, 2005

great post. thanks! (i don't mind exuberance.)
posted by blendor at 4:29 PM on January 27, 2005

Oh, Paris. It could be helpful for reference to local landmarks when giving directions. But just enjoy it as a nostalgia trip back to last summer.
posted by eatitlive at 4:29 PM on January 27, 2005

Anyone know where I could find a scooter to steal?
posted by Kwantsar at 4:36 PM on January 27, 2005

I have been typing in random zip codes in New York. I am now walking down Lexinton Avenue. Cool.
posted by asok at 5:01 PM on January 27, 2005

I totally used to live in this brick building. There is also a picture of my current place and roommate's car. It is super-freaky.
posted by uncleozzy at 5:03 PM on January 27, 2005

Right on Porter Square! Good location.
posted by painquale at 5:07 PM on January 27, 2005

I know, I know it's cool. I know it may even suck-in advertisers. But is it actually useful for its ostensible purpose? Sorry to be obsessed with that, but I am.
posted by ParisParamus at 5:34 PM on January 27, 2005

Plus, no pictures of Park Slope for navel gazing....
posted by ParisParamus at 5:34 PM on January 27, 2005

posted by Zurishaddai at 6:32 PM on January 27, 2005

I put together a drive down Melrose:

set the speed of this to 1sec
posted by jonah at 10:22 PM on January 27, 2005

painquale's right. Most companies would be delighted to have their picture there. Free advertising indeed. This also seems like Fair Use to me. I don't see traditional arguments such as Passing Off (damage to reputation or trademark dilution) at work here.
posted by slf at 2:17 AM on January 28, 2005

As I understand the rules of photographing people: In public, you can be photographed without your permission. Happens all the time. Ever look at newspaper photos?

I have an unfinished project I started on the city center of Duesseldorf, Germany. I started with street intersections, and started doing storefronts on the main shopping street. Got burnt out on the project though, but saved all the work. An interesting photo record of a city. I was inspired by my first digital camera :/
posted by Goofyy at 4:14 AM on January 28, 2005

Uh, newspaper photos have to be cleared if anyone is identifiable in the images. That's why there are crowd shots from far away or closeups, but not 100 clearly identifiable people in an image.

Same with stock video footage on network and cable news. That's why all those "it's cold today" clips are from the necks down or from behind. They never show faces. Because if they did, they'd have to cleared.

I think that this is legally thin ice for Amazon. But kudos to them for doing it anyway.
posted by zpousman at 8:11 AM on January 28, 2005

a9Local doesn't have to actually take these pictures in many areas. They can licensing them from municipalities who contract those trucks to go around taking pictures. The cities do this to catch people who don't take out building permits[1]. In the USA if the pictures were taken using any federal money they are usually in the public domain and can be obtained from the appropriate agency for coping cost plus a nominal fee.

[1] A company I used to work for did this with aerial photos. We'd pay some poor unfortunate co-op student (paid intern) to compare last years air photos with this years photos. She'd have to indicate all the changes and then we'd run a query against the building permit database. Anyone who was in the photo list (because they added/removed a deck or pool or part of their house) but not the permit list got a visit from the nice bylaw enforcement officer.
posted by Mitheral at 8:48 AM on January 28, 2005

Street Sensation is a basic version of what Amazon have created...but on a street by street basis for most of the touristy areas of London.

Some of you from the UK may also remember a project which used to be located at digitalstreets.co.uk. You could enter a postcode and it would return a picture of your location on most london streets.
posted by mikeanegus at 5:31 AM on January 30, 2005

I'm sure this is not the best place to post this but I did a search for "a9" before posting my deleted topic on the subject and it didn't find this. It also warned me about a post from a few years ago on a9 with an a9 tag.

Anyway, I'm a schmuck, but I didn't see this until it was pointed out in the deleted post.

posted by ajpresto at 4:00 AM on February 17, 2005

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