One of the newest additions to the always-increasing offerings from Google is steerable panoramic images shot along the streets of American cities, including Lawrence.
They call this new feature Google Street View. It can be a little frightening from a privacy standpoint to know that anyone, anywhere can zoom right into your front doorstep online. Regardless, the technology is here to stay, and we can only expect more features that attempt to "upload" the tangible, physical world onto the Internet.
Today, we're going to reverse-engineer the photographic technology behind Google Street View, which is actually quite simple if you have the right equipment.
If you are unfamiliar with Google Street View, you can check it out at: http://maps.google.com/help/maps/streetview/.
Google hired drivers in hundreds of U.S. cities to mount cameras on the tops of their cars and traverse the streets.
Capturing the panoramas
The cameras are mounted pointed to the sky on a stabilizing platform. The camera lenses likely used the 360 One VR lens attachment made by Kiadan. More info on it can be found at http://www.kaidan.com/Detail.bok?no=101.
This lens attachment makes one-shot 360-degree panoramas as easy as shooting any photograph. The camera lens shoots a photograph into the reflective spherical half-dome, and the world is captured immediately in 360 degrees. The image is then inverted using imaging software.
Mapping the photos
Similar to the time-stamp feature that records exactly when a photograph was captured, "geo-tagging" is a relatively new technology that records exactly where an image was captured. Some newer cameras even have the GPS feature built-in. The image and image coordinates are instantaneously recorded in a database and then are plotted to a Google Map. More info on geotagging photos without a built in GPS feature can be found here: www.robogeo.com.
That is the quick and dirty guide to geotagging panoramic images to Google Maps. The next time Google comes to town, you might want to draw your blinds.
For a list of the best urban images captured by Google Maps Street View, check this out: http://blog.wired.com/27bstroke6/2007/05/request_for_urb.html