Conceived by Google co-founder Larry Page and celebrating its 15th anniversary, Street View seems tailor-made for adapting to metaverse and augmented reality.
However, the virtual and immersive worlds were not relevant when launching this tool, which allows users of the Google Maps mapping service to move along a road, street or path via a panoramic view.
The metaverse has since become a central theme in technology, with companies like Meta, Facebook’s parent company, investing billions of dollars to create digital universes for avatars to work, play, and shop in.
“Larry Page took a camera and hung it on the window of his car,” says Steven Silverman, Google’s technical program manager, pointing to the garage where the Californian company makes cameras for cars, bikes, backpacks and even snowmobiles that Take 360 degree shots. Grad photos around the world.
“Page spoke to his colleagues at the time and said, ‘I bet I can do something about it.’ That’s how Street View was born,” recalls Mr. Silverman.
Google recently announced the launch of an immersive mode that combines Street View imagery with artificial intelligence to create “a rich digital recreation of the world,” said Miriam Daniel, vice president of Google Maps Experiences, in a post.
Users can explore interesting places (monuments, neighborhoods, restaurants) by flying over them like a drone thanks to 3D aerial photography. The feature will roll out to the cities of Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Tokyo and London this year.
“You can practically hover over Westminster for an up-close look at the neighborhood and the stunning architecture of places like Big Ben,” Ms Daniel described.
Mappings to the Metaverse
Google cameras have taken photos in more than 100 countries and territories, capturing places like Mount Fuji, Grand Canyon National Park, the Amazon rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef.
“If you want to know what it’s like to go down a ski slope, imagine where that sled went,” says Silverman, pointing to a burgundy vehicle parked in a garage in the town of Mountain View, NY, Silicon Valley ( California) is turned off.
“This tricycle is really fun because it went around Stonehenge and we also put it on a barge that went down the Amazon,” he continues. Mr. Silverman also shows off a series of backpack cameras mounted on a zipline in the Amazon rainforest for a bird’s-eye view.
The panoramic photos that Google has collected over the years could be useful in the Metaverse, according to Carolina Milanesi, analyst for Creative Strategies. “The idea of a digital replica of the real world is undoubtedly an area where Google will invest,” she predicts.
For Mr. Silverman, Street View has been providing users with a virtual experience for more than a decade, and its images naturally lend themselves to representing the world through virtual tools.
“Ideally, we’re present in the metaverse, this world we’re headed for,” he affirms.
Many other technology companies have joined the Metaverse, a collective term that describes the network of virtual and immersive universes that already have millions of users.
Facebook rebranded itself to Meta last year to mark this strategic shift and expanded its virtual reality platform Horizon Worlds, available in North America as well as France and Spain.
Japanese giant Sony and Lego’s parent company announced in April that they would invest $2 billion in video game studio Epic Games, behind blockbuster Fortnite, to develop projects in the metaverse.
For its part, Street View, originally considered “a crazy idea” by Larry Page, has become a “crucial tool in our mapping efforts, allowing us to visualize the latest information about the world while laying the foundations for a more comprehensive and more intuitive map,” said Ethan Russell, chief product officer at Google Maps, in a recent blog post.
Conceived by Google co-founder Larry Page and celebrating its 15th anniversary, Street View seems made for adapting to metaverse and augmented reality, however, the virtual and immersive worlds were not relevant when this tool was launched, allowing users of the map service Google Maps, along a road, street or…
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