In addition to Street View being useful for getting directions, it’s also fun to see distant places you can’t go to right away and places you know.
Yes. Often, the first thing most people check out is their own house, then where they used to live, a friend’s house, or their college or university.
Besides streets, there are famous places like NASA or places under the sea. How do you choose such places and include them?
It’s similar to what got us started. Briefly put, it’s a flash of inspiration. We basically do what we think will be interesting, and if that resonates with people outside, we polish it up into something better. That may resemble video game projects.
It is similar.
If we ourselves don’t think it’s interesting, then it’s difficult to get it to truly resonate with our collaborators and users and it doesn’t go anywhere.
No matter how solid a system you devise, to continually photograph so many things is hard work.
In the case of the space shuttle, everyone has a special fascination for space that begins when they’re young. Wouldn’t it be interesting if you could see that from anywhere around the world? We were able to do that because people at NASA empathised with us, and would say, “Good idea! Please, do it!”
They cooperated because they sensed the value in keeping such a record and making it available for all to see.
The White House15 was the same. There have always been sightseeing tours so people can see it, but the number of people who can actually go is limited, so the White House welcomed the idea of opening itself up on the Internet.15. White House: The official residence and office of the President of the United States of America in Washington D.C.
Google Street View is the perfect tool for allowing many people to experience virtual tours.
For that reason, we’ve asked museums around the world like the Musée d'Orsay16 for cooperation in being able to view Street View inside the museum17. Amit Sood18, who’s from India, said, “I was born in a poor village, so as a child, I never imagined I could come to a great museum like this. For that reason, from now on I want to use technology to achieve an environment that allows everyone, no matter who they are, to feel closer to art,” and this project was born of that desire.16. Musée d'Orsay: An art museum in Paris that specialises in 19th-century art.17. Street View inside the museum: This is the Google Art Project, a service that provides a virtual tour of inside over 180 art museums in 40 countries worldwide. As of December 2012, users are able to enjoy approximately 35,000 works of art including paintings, sculptures, street art and photographs.18. Amit Sood: Product Manager at Google. He is responsible for the Google Art Project.
He wants to bring famous art closer to children like the child he once was.
That’s right. Of course, there is something impressive about actually going, but a lot can be gained through Street View, too.
Listening to you talk, I get the impression that as valuable spots around the world become visible one after the other, the response from that will lead to new projects, like “So what about this?”
In that sense, Street View became deeply involved with the Great East Japan Earthquake.
After the earthquake, the Google office in Roppongi (in Tokyo, Japan) was active around the clock in its efforts to address the disaster.
That’s right. At the time Google stopped all projects we were involved in, and said, “Let’s do what we can right now,” and concentrated on helping those who were affected. Web development can be done in a short period of time, so if there was anything that we thought could be useful, we would develop and release it in three or four days.
I heard you really worked fast to give people what they needed by looking at what services were being used more than others.
Right. Then as summer came along, we wondered what we could do next. Many in the media were suggesting that we capture and display the disaster area with Street View. The disaster zone wasn’t a specific area but a truly broad region, so while a normal camera wouldn’t be able to get it all, they thought it would be possible with Street View.
Simply put, Street View is set up to automatically take photos of the view from a car in all directions.
We were worried, however, about what the people who were affected would think if they saw us doing that.
You were worried that some might be uncomfortable with a car rigged with an array of cameras cruising around snapping photos.
Right. My hometown is Sendai, so I wasn’t sure myself. But after talking to a lot of people, we thought that since we were the only ones who could do it, it was our responsibility, so we should. Once we got started, our worries didn’t materialise. Local groups were extremely cooperative and welcomed us warmly. There were even times when the people there gave mikan oranges and rice balls to our driver who was doing the photography, so it seemed like they were actually encouraging the drivers.
I suppose they lent a hand because they could tell you were photographing to show the world what had happened.
That’s exactly right. There is a continuing debate even to this day about how to handle the buildings ravaged by the earthquake and tsunami. There are various opinions, with some saying that it’s painful every time they see them, but everyone shares the feeling that we should keep and share a record. We released the photos we took on December of 201119. The response was big, with major media outlets in America covering it – the whole world saw it.19. Released the photos we took on December 2011: In December 2011, Google began showing Street View images for the coastal areas of Tohoku as well as the affected areas around major cities as part of its digital archive project for the Great East Japan Earthquake. At their website Memories for the Future, collections of photographs and videos are available to view. Some of the areas covered have images for both before and after the disaster.
The reality of the earthquake, which single photographs could never fully portray, came across with Street View technology, which allows you to look around as if you are standing right there on the street. I would imagine that as a result many people the world over were moved.
Aside from the purpose of conveying to later generations the state of the damage, I think that volunteers who lent support may wonder what the area is like now. Different feelings rise up in each person who sees the same photos. That experience made me realise all over again how I want Street View to be a tool that is useful to many people in a variety of ways.
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