Google Maps is probably one of the most-used apps on your phone, especially if you commute and travel on an almost daily basis. Google is giving us a deep-dive into the process that goes into giving us an image-heavy experience within the app. But what’s really interesting to note from this post is that they have revealed for probably the first time the scope of what Maps has been able to, well, map, which is apparently 98% of the world’s inhabited places.
Google shares that its Street View cars and backpacks, as well as various satellites, have captured more than 10 million miles of imagery, which is equivalent to circling the Earth more than 400 times. Meanwhile, Google Earth has already a total of 36 million square miles of satellite imagery and they have already mapped out 98% of the world where people are living. That’s a pretty amazing feat and will be useful for those who won’t be able to visit all these places in their lifetime.
Google shared how they are able to collect all this imagery and it is of course beyond just the already iconic Street View cars, which captures high-definition imagery from all of the possible angles and vantage points. They also have Street View trekkers, which is basically a backpack system for when driving through areas is not possible. It is carried by boats, scout troops, and even animals like sheep, camels, etc. And of course you have all the satellite imagery from their various providers and partners.
These are great of course, but how are they useful for Google Maps? One of the tools that uses imagery is Live View, where you use augmented reality when walking through unfamiliar streets. It also uses a new technology by Google called global localization which matches Street View images with what you see on your phone so it can tell you where to go, in just under half a second. This is pretty useful for those who have trouble reading maps.
Google says they will continue to create more tools and techniques to be able to collect imagery faster, more accurate, and safer for all its users. There are some concerns over security and privacy that they will have to continually address though and this will have to be a priority for them in this age where people are very much concerned about how to protect themselves from nefarious online characters.