freedom tower street view
April 24, 2014

Google Street View Lets You Travel Through Time

Enid Burns for - Your Universe Online

Google is looking to its archives to add a fun feature to Street View. Street View will make older images of certain landmark locations and sites of interest available so that users can see a chronological progression of development, or rebuilding in some cases.

This time-traveling feature of Google Maps was recently discussed on the Google Maps blog. The historical images date back to Street View imagery from 2007. Users will know that historical data are available when they see a clock icon in the upper left-hand portion of a Street View image.

A few landmarks that Google has tracked and provided data on include the construction of the Freedom Tower in New York City and the 2014 World Cup Stadium in Fortaleza, Brazil. Where the imagery is available, Google will also let users see the passage of time, or the passing of the seasons. One example is imagery for Italian roadways, where users can view the streets and the countryside as it appears during summer and winter.

Landmark buildings are one element, landmark moments are another. Google captured imagery after events such as the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Onagawa, Japan, and is providing before and after images, as well as reconstruction progress.

The time capsule abilities of Street View are only available on the desktop version of Google Maps, CNET reports.

Google Street View cars make the rounds in most locations about twice a year, TechCrunch reports. Some areas get more attention than others for Street View in general, and users will find more historical images for urban areas than in the suburbs.

While the Street View imagery is more recent, it is an effort to catalog images of the world. "Google tells me this update is meant to be part of the company’s effort to 'create a digital mirror and true record of the world,'" wrote TechCrunch's Frederic Lardinois.

To gather Street View imagery, Google has a fleet of specially-equipped cars. "Google's Street View uses car-mounted cameras to capture street-level photos of the world, stitching the images together into a virtual representation of the real world overlaid on Google's maps. Google's cars have driven across most of the world, but this is the first time the search giant has made more than one version of the resulting images available to the public," wrote The Guardian's Samuel Gibbs.

Google is not the only one to give Street View special treatment. One developer used the API to create Hyperlapse video of Street View, so users could have the impression of driving down the road using Street View.

The landmark images, as well as images capturing seasonal differences is one way to travel voyeuristically, or help plan travel. Google has also helped international travelers by providing Street View imagery inside airports and rail stations.

Google has paid special attention to natural landmarks in its Street View arena. The company added panoramic imagery of the Galapagos Islands, the Grand Canyon, and Antarctica, among other locations of interest.