Dreamed up by Google co-founder Larry Page, Street View, celebrating its 15th anniversary, seems tailor-made to fit the metaverse and augmented reality.
However, virtual and immersive worlds were not relevant when this tool was launched, which allows users of the Google Maps mapping service to move along a street, highway or road through a panoramic view.
Since then, the metaverse has become a central theme in technology, with companies like Facebook’s parent company Meta investing billions of dollars to create digital universes where avatars can work, play and shop.
“Larry Page took a camera and hung it in the window of his car,” says Steven Silverman, Google’s technical program manager, pointing to the garage where the California group makes cameras for cars, bikes, backpacks and even snowmobiles that take 360- degree photos around the world.
“Page was talking to his colleagues at the time and saying, ‘I bet I can do something about it.’ That’s how Street View was born,” recalls Mr. Silverman.
Google recently announced the launch of an immersive mode that combines Street View imagery with artificial intelligence to create “a rich digital replica of the world,” Miriam Daniel, vice president of Google Maps Experiences, said in a post.
Users will be able to explore places of interest (monuments, neighborhoods, restaurants) by flying over them like a drone thanks to 3D aerial views. The feature will launch this year for the cities of Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Tokyo and London.
“You can virtually fly over Westminster to get an up-close look at the neighborhood and the stunning architecture of places like Big Ben,” Ms. Daniel described.
Maps to the metaverse
Google cameras have taken photos in more than 100 countries and territories, capturing places like Mount Fuji, the Grand Canyon National Park, the Amazon rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef.
“If you want to know what it’s like going down a ski slope, imagine where that sled went,” Silverman says, pointing to a burgundy vehicle stored in a garage in the Silicon Valley, California, town of Mountain View, New York.
“This trike is so much fun because it went around Stonehenge, and we also put it on a barge that went down the Amazon,” he continues. Mr. Silverman also shows off a set of backpack cameras that were mounted on a zip line in the Amazon rainforest to get a bird’s eye view.
The panoramic photos that Google has accumulated over the years could be useful in the metaverse, Judge Carolina Milanesi, an analyst at Creative Strategies. “The idea of a digital replica of the real world is definitely an area that Google will invest in,” she forecasts.
For Mr. Silverman, Street View has provided users with a virtual experience for more than a decade, and its images naturally lend themselves to representing the world through virtual tools.
“Ideally, we would be present in the metaverse, that world we are heading towards,” he says.
Many other tech companies have flocked to the metaverse, an umbrella term that describes the network of immersive, virtual universes where millions of users are already present.
Facebook changed its name to Meta last year to mark this strategic change and expanded its virtual reality platform, Horizon Worlds, available in North America, France and Spain.
Japanese giant Sony and Lego’s parent company announced in April investing $2 billion in video game studio Epic Games, behind the blockbuster Fortnite, to develop projects in the metaverse.
For its part, Street View, initially considered “a crazy idea” by Larry Page, has become a “decisive tool in our mapping efforts by allowing us to visualize the latest information about the world while laying the foundation for a more immersive experience. and intuitive”. map,” said Ethan Russell, Product Manager for Google Maps, in a recent blog post.
Envisioned by Google co-founder Larry Page, Street View, which turns 15, seems tailor-made to fit the metaverse and augmented reality, yet virtual and immersive worlds weren’t relevant at the launch of this tool, which allows users of the Google Maps mapping service to navigate a street, highway or…
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