Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Here Comes the Google Camera Car!

Well, my reader Chris in New Zealand reveals yet another hair clipper. While he reported the New Zealand Rail 4.6-meter flyover, he neglected to report the 2.72-meter flyover!

At 2.72m (8'11") this is the lowest rail fly over we have documented. In fact, it is so low that the Google Camera Car was unable to navigate this structure.

This Rail New Zealand bridge is located near Tokomaru on New Zealand's North Island.

Google Street View became available as a tool in Google Earth in March 2007. I missed the launch. The computer I was running at that time was woefully incapable - speed, memory - to run the program. Now in its fourth generation of imaging technology. This article from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Computer Society, details the history of the system and how the panoramic imaging system works.

Each car - many are Subaru Imprezas - uses 15 cameras that snap 360 degree horizontal and 290 degree vertical images at a height of 8.2 feet (2.5 meters) feeding digital video and laser ranging information into a massive on-board computer array.

Besides automobiles, snowmobiles and trikes are also fitted out with the panoramic image gathering equipment.

This video of the Google Camera Trike, demonstrates its use on narrow streets and lanes. A great way to see beautiful the landscapes and burn off calories!

Germany, Switzerland, India and Austria have all sought bans preventing Google Street View camera recordings. Indeed, there may be understandable angst by some over such detailed access afforded by "Street View."

Google is not insensitive about privacy concerns. This article, also from the IEEE Computer Society, details extraordinary software developed which is successful about 89% of the time to blur faces and up to 96% to blur license plate numbers!

Privacy issues aside, Street View has captured a number of "revealing" scenes. I remember looking up the address of a friend, and was dumbfounded to see the south end of woman in shorts, bending over her gardening! I never mentioned it out of embarrassment.

Despite Germany being upset with the Camera Car, areas of Germany are being "Street Viewed." In fact, employees from Fiat Motors "worked" the system to prank Volkswagen. It is not clear as to how they found out when the Camera Car would pass Volkswagen head quarters!

Flip side of the humorous; the devastating Japanese Earthquake. This site requires special attention. Here you are first confronted with an overall view of Japan. Using the "+" icon, continue to zoom in on an area of interest. Once you are in the area of interest, drag the "Oscar Icon" to that area, to begin your exploration, comparing "before" and "after."

Google Amazon River Cam
In August 2011, Google strapped a Camera Trike atop a tourist boat, and began making "Street Views" on the Amazon River. [Ed Note: When you bring up this link, click on "View in Google Maps" to begin your voyage of discovery.] I was surprised to see how much my town - Port Townsend - is covered, mostly main routes through and around town.

I was surprised to see how much my town - Port Townsend - is covered, mostly main routes through and around town. The Street View "timeline"details the incredible amount of photographing the world in a few short years.

On October 30, 2012, Google announced that you can contribute to Street View by creating a panorama-like image from the Galaxy Nexus smartphone to share on Google Maps all around the world.

To many people, Google means the best Internet search engine. But Google is much more. Google owns the Android operating system. And it was announced last month, that Google and Apple have formed a consortium to purchase more than 1,000 imagining patents from floundering Kodak.

Google announced it had logged more than 140,000 miles on the Google Robo Car. The mileage was racked up in and around San Francisco, with an engineer behind the wheel if things went south.

Google says it has no intention of manufacturing vehicles, but produce the "guidance systems" for vehicle installation. Nevada and California have already given the green light to establish operating policies and procedures, and expect the vehicles to begin operating in 2015.

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