Google Street View is a technology featured in Google Maps and Google Earth that provides panoramic views from positions along many streets in the world. It was launched in 2007 in several cities in the United States, and has since expanded to include cities and rural areas worldwide. Streets with Street View imagery available are shown as blue lines on Google Maps.
Google Street View displays panoramas of stitched images. Most photography is done by car, but some is done by trekker, tricycle, walking, boat, snowmobile, and underwater apparatus.
Street View had its inception in 2001 with The Stanford CityBlock Project, a Google-sponsored Stanford University research project. The project ended in June 2006, and its technology was folded into StreetView.
2007: Launched on 25 May in the United States using Immersive Media technology.
2008: In May Google announces that it was testing face-blurring technology on its photos of the busy streets of Manhattan. The technology uses a computer algorithm to search Google's image database for faces and blurs them. Street View integrated into Google Earth 4.3, the Maps application on the Apple iPhone, and the Maps application for S60 3rd Edition. In November, the drag and drop Pegman icon is introduced as the primary user interface element for connecting from Maps's 2D view into Street View's 3D view. When Pegman is dropped onto a particular set of coordinates in Google Maps for which Street View data is available, Street View opens and takes over the whole map window.
2009: Introduction of full-screen option. Smart Navigation introduced allowing users to navigate around the panoramas by double-clicking with their cursor on any place or object they want to see.
2010: Indoor views of businesses available. Google invites users to contribute panoramas of their own using gadgets with Android 4.2. Google highlights user-contributed panoramas with blue circle icons on Maps. The company also created a website to highlight places in the world where one can find them.
2013: Business interior views are shown as small orange circles. Businesses such as shops, cafés and other premises can pay a photographer to take panoramic images of the interior of their premises which are then included in Street View. Google sets up program to let third parties borrow the Street View Trekker (a backpack mounted camera) and contribute imagery to Google Maps.
2014: Street-level imagery from the past can now be seen, if available for a given street view.
Data capturing equipment
A Google Maps Camera Car showcased on the Google campus in Mountain View, California in October 2010
A Google car captures itself in a street mirror in Nagiso, Nagano, Japan
Cameras: Street View imagery has come from several generations of camera systems developed in-house. The cameras contain no mechanical parts, including the shutter, instead using CMOS sensors and an electronic rolling shutter. Widely deployed versions are:
R2: the earliest photos were captured with a ring of eight 11-megapixel CCD sensors with commercial photographic wide-angle lenses.
Laser range scanners from Sick AG for the measuring of up to 50 meters 180° in the front of the vehicle. These are used for recording the actual dimensions of the space being photographed.
Vehicles: data recording equipment is usually mounted on the roof of a car. A Trike (tricycle) was developed to record pedestrian routes including Stonehenge, and other UNESCOWorld Heritage sites. In 2010 a snowmobile-based system captured the 2010 Winter Olympics sites. Trolleys have been used to shoot the insides of museums, and in Venice the narrow roads were photographed with backpack-mounted cameras, and canals were photographed from boats.
A portable back-pack Google Trekker is used in outdoor terrain. For instance, the six main paths up Snowdon were mapped by the Google Trekker in 2015.
As noted above, the drag-and-drop Pegman icon is the primary user interface element used by Google to connect Maps to Street View. His name comes from his resemblance to a clothespeg. When not in use, Pegman sits atop the Google Maps zoom controls. Occasionally Pegman "dresses up" for special events or is joined by peg friends in Google Maps. When dragged into Street View near Area 51, he becomes a flying saucer. When viewing older views, the Pegman in the minimap changes to Doc Brown from Back to the Future.
Google Street View will blur houses for any user who makes a request, in addition to the automatic blurring of faces and licence plates. Privacy advocates have objected to the Google Street View, pointing to views found to show men leaving strip clubs, protesters at an abortion clinic, sunbathers in bikinis, and people engaging in activities visible from public property in which they do not wish to be seen publicly. Another concern is the height of the cameras, and in at least two countries, Japan and Switzerland, Google has had to lower the height of its cameras so as to not peer over fences and hedges. The service also allows users themselves to flag inappropriate or sensitive imagery for Google to review and remove.Police Scotland received an apology for wasting police time in 2014 from a local business owner in Edinburgh who in 2012 had staged a fake murder for the Google camera car by lying in the road "while his colleague stood over him with a pickaxe handle". In May 2010, it was revealed that Google had collected and stored payload data from unencrypted Wi-Fi connections as part of Street View. German authorities are considering legal action while the Foreign Minister said "I will do all I can to prevent it." Australian police have also been ordered to investigate.
The concerns have led to Google not providing or suspending the service in countries around the world.
Austria: Google Street View was banned in Austria because Google was found to collect Wifi data unauthorized in 2010. After the ban was lifted rules were set up for how Street View can operate legally in Austria. Google has yet to resume service. Officially it welcomed the new guidelines but has ruled out operating under them. As of 2016 Google Street View is still unavailable.
Australia: In 2010, Google Street View ceased operations in Australia, following months of investigations from Australian authorities. However, this cessation has since ended, with Google announcing plans to continue production on May 4, 2011 and subsequently releasing updated Street View imagery for Australian towns and cities on July 27, 2011.
Germany: In 2011, Google stopped taking Street View images in Germany.
India: In 2011, Google stopped taking street images in India, after receiving a letter from the local authorities.
Canada: Street View cars had been spotted as early as September 2007, in Montréal, though service for Canada was delayed while attempting to settle with the Canadian government over its privacy laws. Privacy and town beauty concerns were dealt with and Street View is available in Montréal and other Canadian cities (as of 2016).
Third-party use of images
Fine-art photographers have selected images for use in their own work. Although the images may be pixelated, the colours muddy, and the perspective warped, the photographs have been published in book form and exhibited in art galleries, such as the work of Jon Rafman at the Saatchi Gallery, London. In his personal appreciation of Street View material, Rafman sees images which evoke the "gritty urban life" depicted in American street photography and the images commissioned by the Farm Security Administration. He also invokes the "decisive moment" esthetic of Henri Cartier-Bresson "as if I were a photojournalist responding instantaneously to an emerging event".