How Google slurps in Street View data -- not just from streets

At its Google I/O conference, the company showed off the equipment it uses to gather its 360-degree panoramic imagery of the world.

The Street View snowmobile is used to map ski areas. Google had to adapt the technology to keep hard drives warm enough. Google showed the Street View technology at its Google I/O 2013 show developer in San Francisco.
The Street View snowmobile is used to map ski areas. Google had to adapt the technology to keep hard drives warm enough. Google showed the Street View technology at its Google I/O 2013 developer show in San Francisco. Stephen Shankland/CNET

SAN FRANCISCO -- By now Street View is a routine part of online mapping. But people might not be so familiar with how Google actually gets the data for its 360-degree panoramic views of the world.

Street View imagery launched in 2007 with photos taken by cameras perched on cars. That's still the mainstay of the project, but there's much more to it now, and Google was showing off its methods at its Google I/O 2013 developer show here this week.

Exhibits included not just a car, but also a snowmobile, tricycle, backpack, trolley, and self-propelled underwater camera system. The underwater and backpack systems are controlled by Android devices.

For a look at all the gear, check CNET's Street View equipment gallery .

Street View now reaches 3,000 cities, 200 museums, the Great Barrier Reef , and the Grand Canyon .

Although Street View can be convenient for Google Maps users trying to get around unfamiliar territory, it's also important to Google itself. Google uses Street View imagery in its Ground Truth project to correct its own map and navigation inaccuracies.

The standby of the Street View fleet is the car, in this case a Subaru Impreza. Google is showing this one off at the Google I/O 2013 show in San Francisco.
The standby of the Street View fleet is the car, in this case a Subaru Impreza. Google is showing this one off at the Google I/O 2013 show in San Francisco. Stephen Shankland/CNET
About the author

Stephen Shankland has been a reporter at CNET since 1998 and covers browsers, Web development, digital photography and new technology. In the past he has been CNET's beat reporter for Google, Yahoo, Linux, open-source software, servers and supercomputers. He has a soft spot in his heart for standards groups and I/O interfaces.

 

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