Ever get the feeling someone is watching you? Even on a crowded city street? A feeling that you, out of all those milling about you, have been specifically targeted by someone (or something) to watch. Most people have felt this way. It comes with the territory of reality shows, traffic cameras, everybody owning a camera phone, and the myriad variations on a theme of Hollywood-generated 1984 scenarios.
As if it wasn’t enough for a person to just type in a place or coordinates to swoop down and get a good look at the surroundings on Google Earth, Google Maps launched Google Street View in 25 cities in the United Kingdom Wednesday (March 18). Google Street View lets the viewer see what is happening, appropriately enough, at street level. The viewer is able to take a gander at 360 degrees in cities like Manchester and London. Edinburgh, Scotland, as well. There are cameras in Wales and Northern Ireland, too.
Google Sightseeing announced that Google Street View launched for the first time in the Netherlands on Wednesday as well. It also expanded the service in Spain and Northern Italy.
But the United Kingdom is late to the Google Street View party. Google Street View has been spying on European and U. S. cities for some time now. It originated in only five American cities at its inception in May 2007, but has since expanded to France, Italy, Spain, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan.
The technology of Google Street View is a merging of images taken from a spherical camera mounted on vehicles — cars for the street, and Google bikes for areas not accessible by car. The images of the camera are combined with Google maps images already in place from previously acquired satellite imagery.
Like to travel? Don’t like flying, riding, or driving? Now our increasingly sedentary society doesn’t even have to leave the home to travel to Barcelona, Spain, or Dallas, Texas, or Melbourne, Australia. With a click of the mouse over to Google Maps, you can see what’s going on in London, Paris, and Rome. The new service has already been used to conduct virtual tours.
Google says its ultimate goal is to be able to view anyplace in the world at any time. That feeling that you keep getting that someone is watching isn’t just a feeling. It is quickly becoming a reality. How Orwellian is that?
Google Sightseeing’s motto is “Why Bother Seeing The World For Real?” (“It’s the next best thing to being there”* was already taken.) And they have a point. With Google Street View, you don’t have to worry about monetary exchange rates or those pesky English-to-Wherever-you-are pocket translators. It is an excellent innovation for those who love to spy on others and do things vicariously. It is traveling without the hassle of… traveling.
* This is actually paraphrased from the Bell Systems and AT&T advertisement slogan: “Long-distance is the next best thing to being there.”