Google Maps Goes Streetside

Update: Google launched a street view mapping feature for several cities this morning at the Where 2.0 conference, and GigaTeam is pretty excited about checking out the views around our own San Francisco digs. We just chatted with John Hanke, Google’s Director of Google Earth and Google Maps, after his presentation at the conference and he had some interesting details to add.

He said while Google is using a partnership with Immersive Media to create the street level mapping service, Google has also been driving its own cars around the Bay Area and collecting the street level views here. Hanke wouldn’t go into too many details around the vehicles themselves, but if anyone sees any Google-mobiles with high tech photo gear around the Bay, snap a pic and send us the photo.

Google’s Street Views is part of the company’s broader attempts to create a richer experience for its geoweb services, and follows the launch of its My Maps map mashup tool in April. One part of that richer experience could be video, Hanke tells us, though he says the company has nothing yet to announce for google maps and video. Hanke points out that right now My Maps users can embed YouTube clips.

Google also announced ‘mapplets’ for Google Maps today, which is basically widgets that can be displayed on Google Maps the way gadgets are displayed on iGoogle. At the same time the Mercury News says that Google has licensed the sensing technology developed by the Stanford students behind Stanley the robotic car. Hanke says that the Stanford students are now Google employees.

Google’s push for richer geoweb services is partly being driven by Microsoft’s attention to the space. Microsoft has been working on street views since last year and is announcing its 3D maps for cities like New York today.

Both companies are fighting for users now that web-based location data is getting more and more mainstream attention. Hanke said in his morning speech that more attention means three things for Google, as well as the rest of the industry:

  • 1). There will be aggressive investments in the base map and the applications on top of it, from Google and others.
  • 2). This is a broader endorsement of the large economic opportunity in this space, with location-enabled ads being of particular interest to Google.
  • 3) Expect more M&A – both John Hanke (from Keyhole) and Bernhard Seefeld (from Endoxon) and now Geo Software engineer Google joined the company after their startups were acquired.

Liz wrote the morning post

Wow, this is way cool. Google Maps for San Francisco Bay Area, and cities such as Las Vegas, and New York now have streetside views, with photographs of buildings stitched together in Flash so you can virtually walk down the street. Look for the “Street View” option next to traffic, map, satellite, and hybrid in the upper right corner.


Microsoft already has a similar “bird’s eye” tool in its maps, with much broader coverage, as it’s bought an exclusive relationship with Pictometry for extensive sets of aerial photographs that are stitched together. Google, on the other hand, has partnered with Immersive Media.

As Brady Forrest puts it at O’Reilly Radar, “This is not just a static, A9-style image.” He points to a post by Greg Sadetsky with more technical details. [digg=]