If you attended one of my sessions with that title, thank you and I hope the time you spent was valuable. On this page you’ll find the links to the resources we played with along with my notes and other materials for you to continue exploring Street View. If you have any comments or questions, please write.
Street View is Google’s database of images taken from their cars as they drive down the streets of the world. Although these days, they’ve put the same cameras on other vehicles and even a backpack (called Trekker) to get 360° views far off the beaten path.
To see a large collection of Street View images, as well as Photo Spheres taken by thousands of people (more about that below), visit Google’s Street View site and click all over the map. As you’ll see, that includes many “street” views taken along rivers and canyons, as well inside museums and other iconic buildings. Check out this list of eleven inside locations to get you started.
So how does Google get their pictures? They explain the process and how anyone can contribute on their Understand page. They even loan the Trekker backpack to individuals and organizations who want to document a location Google can’t drive to.
Using Street View
In addition to the Street View website, you can also view Street View locations directly in Google Maps and Google Earth.
First, zoom in on an area you want to check out. Then click and drag Pegman from his home in the lower right corner of Maps or the upper right section in Earth. As you continue to hold down the mouse button, the map will show you where Street View is available in the location you are viewing.
The blue lines on the street indicate where the Street View car has driven and taken images. The blue circles are sites where people have created and uploaded their own Street View images (note: Google used to call these Photo Spheres and recently changed the name without notice). The orange circles (one is all the way to the right in this location) are locations where Google has taken it’s cameras inside a business or another “see inside” location.
To drop into Street View, hold the green circle below Pegman over a line or circle and release the mouse button. Now you can click and drag to change your view at that location. Turn all the way around, and don’t forget to to look up and down as well.
Notice all the blue lines on the White House itself? That indicates Google has taken the Street View trolley on a more extensive tour inside the building. Drop Pegman on one of those lines to enter and take the tour.
You can find even more off-street Street Views in the Google Treks site. Both the Gallery and the Maps view link to collections of Street Views at historical and UNESCO World Heritage sites. Some exhibits include videos and profiles of local people.
More to do With Street View
The Explore Carousel/Tour Guide – In Maps, click the up arrows in the lower right corner, or the Earth square in the lower left, and up pops a line of images.
Most of these are still photos of the location shown (roll over each and it will indicate where the image was taken). But some, with the circular arrow icon, lead to Street View or Photo Sphere immersive images. Click the thumbnail image to see a full screen version of an image, or to enter an immersive image. Exit back to the map using the arrow in the upper left corner.
In Earth, click Tour Guide in the lower left corner to see the carousel. Clicking on any of the pictures in the Tour Guide usually shows multiple photos taken at that location as thumbnails on the map. Click any one to begin a slide show. Click the x in the lower left corner to dismiss the slide show.
The pictures with a timer shown are animated tours of the area. Click to begin the tour and use the controls in the lower left corner of the map to pause, move back and forth, end and dismiss the tour. Often you’ll see text at the top of the screen during the tour to give you more information.
Playing Games – Since Google allows open access to the images and information in Street View, developers have published some interesting and creative applications, including some games. Probably the best known of these is GeoGuessr. Players are shown a random location in Street View and must guess where they are by dropping a pin on a map. After five rounds they get a score based on how close their guesses were to the actual location. Here are some other games and resources that make use of Street View data.
Google Cultural Institute – This is a relatively new project in which Google takes the visitor inside some of the world’s greatest museums and to some of it’s most iconic locations. Start by visiting the World Wonders Project to see a map with links to the “exhibits”. Within each exhibit you’ll often find access to Street Views of the area, along with historical and cultural artifacts to explore.
Mobile Street View – You can also use Street View on a tablet or smartphone using the Google Maps app for either iOS or Android. Enter street view by tapping and holding on a location. On a tablet, tap on the street view thumbnail image in the information column that appears at the left side of the screen. On a phone, tap the thumbnail in the lower left corner. Exit Street View by tapping the arrow in the upper left corner. Of course, Street View on your mobile device doesn’t have all the features as Maps in a computer browser or the Google Earth software.
Creating Street View Images
It used to require some expensive equipment and software to capture 360° immersive images (what Apple called QuickTime VR), not to mention a lot of time. Now you only need a smartphone, a free app, and a couple of minutes.
Complete instructions for creating your own Street View images (what Google used to call Photo Spheres) are in this tutorial. You can also explore all the ways to create and publish Street Views on Google’s Street View Publish page.
Street View images, both taken by Google and individuals, can also be used with Google Cardboard, an inexpensive VR viewer. More details, including where to buy the viewer, are on the Cardboard information page.