Google Street View Technology Now Letting Users Explore The Great Barrier Reef

Brett Smith for – Your Universe Online

Google Street View has allowed users to travel the roads of the world, from the Red Square in Moscow to the Las Vegas Strip, and now the online resource is letting viewers go where no car has gone before–the Great Barrier Reef.

Using images taken by the Caitlin Seaview Survey team and their submersible panoramic cameras, Google now allows users to click along a path that traces the reef and displays 360-degree images of turtles, corals and schools of fish.

A Google web video introduces the partnership with the survey team and what they are calling “our first underwater Street View collection.”

“We want to be a comprehensive source for imagery that lets anyone explore anywhere,” Google Ocean manager Jenifer Foulkes told the BBC. “This is just the next step to take users underwater and give them the experience of an area that most people have been been to – seeing sea turtles, seeing manta rays, crazy pencil urchins and beautiful fish.”

To take these images, Caitlin developed a specially-designed submersible they dubbed the Seaview SVII. Its onboard cameras are capable of shooting 360-degree, 24-megapixel panoramic images every three seconds while traveling at around 2.5mph and marking these images using geo-location technology.

The Caitlin crew completely controlled the submersible by using a tablet computer that allowed them to easily modify settings or download images. After the Seaview SVII successful voyage, the company said it intends to launch the camera commercially.

Google executives involved with the project were quick to tell the BBC that this new image collection is an important victory in the battle to save the fragile ecosystems surrounding coral reefs.

“The main reason is to record reef environments on an unprecedented scale and reveal them to the world,” explained Richard Vevers, the project’s director. “It’s about creating a global reef record – something that has been missing and something that is very much needed. We simply don’t have historical records to monitor change on a broad scale.”

“Scientists from around the world will now be able to study reefs remotely and very clearly see how they are changing,” he added.

Researchers at the University of Queensland are already cataloging and analyzing the images taken by the SVII in an effort to track changes in the Great Barrier Reef over time.

This latest announcement by the internet search giant comes as the digital mapping wars are beginning to heat up. For the first time since its debut, Apple´s newest iPhone model will not include a Google Maps app as a standard feature. The decision has received widespread criticism because Apple´s own replacement app has been deemed inferior because of its lack of detail compared to its Google counterpart.

“We think it would have been better if they had kept ours, but what do I know?” said Google’s chairman Eric Schmidt earlier this week in Tokyo. “What were we going to do, force them not to change their mind? It’s their call.”

Amazon has also entered the mapping fray–striking a deal with Nokia to use their mapping software on their Kindle Fire tablets.

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