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July 1, 2014

Google's New Time Machine

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Google Maps Street View now lets you look back as far as 2007 to see what things looked like then and now.

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A demonstration of the feature in action here.

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Below, excerpts from Nathan Olivarez-Giles' April 23 Wall Street Journal story.


Ever wish you could travel back in time? A new feature on Google Maps Street View, rolling out world-wide today, lets users zip through imagery dating back to Street View's beginning in 2007. The update also lets you view Street View in different seasons, and during the night as well.

"For the longest time we’ve had Street View users asking that we either preserve the imagery we had or that we give them the ability to go back in time and look at imagery the way it was before," said Luc Vincent, the Google Maps Street View director of engineering. Users want to see how their old neighborhood looked years ago, the building of iconic landmarks, or cities before and after natural disasters.

"We like to think we were building a 3-D image of the world, and now the mirror is actually 4-D," he said. "You can go back in time (aka, the fourth dimension), look at things the way they were, and sort of get lost in exploration."

If you see an hourglass in the upper left corner of a Street View panorama, that means there is past imagery you can peruse. Just click the hourglass and a thumbnail of past images will appear. A timeline in the thumbnail allows you to move through history. When you see the period you want to explore, click it and the whole Street View will change. At that point, you have traveled through time, and can wander around in the past as you would in the current version.

Before this massive update, about 6 million miles worth of Street View imagery was available. As of today, including the time machine feature, you can find about 12 million miles worth of sidewalk-level, interactive photos to explore.

The time machine will be available in almost every location where Street View is in operation. For major metro areas, there will be 20 or more "time slices" to check out, while for most locations, there will be two or three, Vincent said.

"What we've done before now was give users the freshest imagery, because that’s typically what's most useful to them,” he said. "And from now on, every time we add imagery, it will be with a time machine layer — it will be enabling this going-back-in-time feature."

For now, Street View’s time machine feature is only available on the desktop, but Vincent said he'd like to see it eventually offered on mobile as well.

The hope, he said, is that users will find the old Street View maps just as useful as the new photos. "This is something educators and scientists could use," Vincent said. "We want this to be a resource for the world. That’s why we were intent on launching it worldwide all at once."

July 1, 2014 at 08:01 PM | Permalink


Incredible,thx ! Never would have known.

Posted by: steven frisk | Jul 3, 2014 12:36:36 AM

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