Google Maps is far more than a tool we use just for finding our way around, and there's a huge discovery component to it as well — who hasn't scrolled around Maps looking for a new restaurant to try out? And while the standard overhead view is plenty useful, sometimes you want to really immerse yourself in a place with a first-person Street View experience. So far, though, navigating Maps in Street View has come at a price, as you wouldn't see those discoverable markers for businesses and points of interest. Now that's finally changing, as Google deploys an AR-style overlay that bring place markers to Street View.
With all of us stuck at home because of the Coronavirus pandemic, a supermarket run is starting to feel like the biggest excursion and adventure we can go on for the foreseeable future. Travel is out of the question, local trips are restricted in many countries, and even the simple idea of stepping out of your house is as daunting as an alcohol and paranoia party. I've been yearning for a vacation for a while — I even had a trip planned for May before all of this went down — but since that's been canceled now, I've found myself thumbing through old pics and 360 photos I've taken during my trips, reminiscing about better times and nicer places, then it occurred to me that I could do something similar but also discover new countries and cities I've never visited, all through the magic of Google Maps, Earth, and Street View.
Google's Street View project is one of the largest collections of 360 panoramas images available for public use. While most images are taken with the easily recognizable Street View cars, for off-road collection a contraption called the Street View Trekker is used. Today, the Street View team is announcing an upgraded Trekker that has shed a few pounds and improved on image quality.
Eight years ago, Circuit City closed its remaining stores, Michael Jackson died, and Barack Obama became the 44th President of the United States. Eight years ago was also the last time Google's Street View cameras got a major upgrade. According to Wired, the company has started rolling out updated cameras to its fleet of picture-snapping cars.
The new rig now features just seven cameras, down from the 15 mounted on the old version. Each camera has a 20MP sensor, and two 'cans' on the front and back for laser radar. All these upgrades will make for higher-resolution pictures with enhanced image clarity.
I still remember when Google Street View was that pre-installed icon that I wished I could remove from my device but couldn't because it came as part of Google Maps. Now the exploration service is all grown up, living independently, and thanks to the spread of 360 cams and user-generated content as well as the addition of dozens of interesting photosphere collections from real to fictional, has reached 1 billion total installs on the Play Store.
While many of those downloads will have resulted from the app being pre-installed on devices for the longest time, 1 billion is still an impressive milestone to reach.
There's a fresh update to Street View rolling out today and it has a little something for everyone. Counting among the changes in this release, there's a new satellite mode and a toggle for photographers to market themselves for work. A few visuals have been tweaked, including a better-looking search results screen. And a teardown item lets us know that the developers are planning a cool little feature that can take care of blurring out faces before uploading photos for the public to see.
For many of us, the Street View name is linked to a convenient way to look around at places we haven't been, whether it's just an address we're about to drive to or one of the world's greatest mountains. We don't usually associate it with making money, but a lot of businesses have started investing in virtual tours to attract more customers. For a few years, Google has been working to help businesses pair up with independent photographers and agencies to capture scenery for potential visitors. The interface for this was entirely web based, but now it looks like some of the operations will soon become available through the Street View app itself.
Update Wednesday has been and gone, but we'll let it pass, as an app that doesn't get all that much attention has been updated! v2.12 of Google Street View is rolling out now, with some new Photo Sphere features and other improvements.
Photo Spheres are now automatically grouped, and connections can be created between them. Your own photo spheres can be multiple selected by long tapping, which is helpful, and the app works in landscape now. Curiously, Google has also added support for KitKat, but when you look at the latest distribution numbers and see that almost a third of Android users still use 4.4, it starts to make more sense.