Posted by: Burlington Public Library (WA) | September 8, 2012

Virtual travel guide

I’ve always wanted to see Switzerland.  Fortunately for me, there’s an app for that… and much more.  You’ve heard of Google.  You may have used Google Maps to get directions or map out a trip.  But have you heard of Street View?  It’s been around since 2007, but many people aren’t aware of this fantastic resource for spending yet more mind-boggling screen time on the web.

Street View isn’t available for all locations, of course.  And it’s easily confused with Google Earth, which is a separate program you have to have installed specially to use.  Street View is just a part of the Google Maps website.  When you zoom in to the maximum and keep clicking on the plus sign, if Street View is available, it’ll show up.

Would you like to see how New Orleans is recovering?

How about the ancient pyramids of Mexico?

Switzerland?  Check.  Thailand?  Check.  Israel, Poland, Cape Canaveral (inside and out)?  No problem.

So here’s how it works: Google has all these people running all over the planet, taking pictures.  Really.  They drive down streets in Seattle and they drive to the North pole on snowmobiles.  They use satellites to update aerial views and special cameras to capture panoramic, 360-degree views.  Since 2007, they’ve taken tens of millions of images and driven (or biked?) more than 5,000,000 unique miles of road.  Here’s one of their camera cars:

Sometimes, of course, the cameras catch funny things; there are lots of online collections of those.  And, of course, there are the inevitable privacy concerns.

Here’s two collections of Google amazement; you’re going to want to view these on a fast Internet connection.

Street View Collections

World Wonders Project

–Mary Beth

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