Live everyone else in the UK (all of them, without exception) I’ve been enjoying the new Google Street View imagery of our little country. Aside from echoing the general “wow, it’s amazing” feeling, two other thoughts have occurred to me.
Today is tomorrow’s past
Street View might be pretty amazing now but it’s only going to get more amazing. Even if the technology stays exactly the same — which it won’t, it will only get better — Google Street View will become increasingly gob-smacking as the decades pass.
Imagine in, say, 2059 looking up a location on Google Maps and being able to dial the view back fifty years to see what that building looked like in 2009. Zoom back and forth in time to see how the place changed as decades flip by. That will be amazing.
The Street View images we have today, and those generated subsequently, will become increasingly fascinating as the years and decades and centuries go by. Imagine being able to look at where you live as it was in 1709. That’s what it’ll be like for someone looking back on today’s Street View imagery in 2309.
Except by then, of course, we won’t be looking at Street View on a monitor. The images will be projected onto our vision as we look at the real building and we’ll be able to simply flip back to see our surroundings as they looked in the past. I remember walking through my home town a couple of decades ago wishing such a tool existed. I couldn’t imagine how it could work then. Now I can.
Google Street View might seem amazing now. But it is currently at the least interesting stage it will ever be.
As an aside: Assuming Google (or someone) keeps this all going, I hope they un-blur all those faces and number plates after a while. Maybe after thirty years. No one complains about invasions of privacy in old photos.
Google Room View
Street View is great and everything, but it only shows us the outside of buildings. Any slight peep through the curtains into an interior is an invasion of privacy to be avoided.
But here’s a project for someone. Start scraping property websites like Rightmove and Property Finder (or your local equivalent). Archive all the photos of the insides of properties and back gardens along with any location information available.
You won’t be able to do much with all this right now before you receive shirty letters from lawyers. But be patient… One day you’ll have a vast archive of photos of building interiors. Hopefully, with a bit of location information and maybe some exceedingly clever magic that matches photos of the fronts of properties up with their respective Street View images, you’ll be able to provide a historical view inside the buildings we can only see the exteriors of in Street View.
Imagine not only being able to dial back to see what the outside of your home looked like fifty years ago, but to see what your bedroom looked like then. When did that wall get knocked down? What furniture did they think looked good back then?
Sure, it’ll be a very patchy record, and the photos will be annoyingly low resolution, but all those pictures of interiors that currently vanish after a few weeks seem like a huge wasted opportunity right now.