My 3/16/09 Missoulian column
I had heard of Google’s camera-laden cars cruising Billings a few years back, gathering data for what’s called “Street View,” but I never checked the results on Google Maps. But a few weeks ago I heard that Missoula was now included in the application, so I looked at it one evening last week. I soon became so engrossed that I didn’t realize the room had gotten dark.
What is Street View? It’s an aspect of the very popular Google Maps service that includes photographic panoramas of streets all over the world. It must be a huge exercise in logistics, data gathering, data storage and presentation on the Web. The application uses 360 degree horizontal (and 270 degree vertical) panoramic photographs at the street level of large parts of the drivable world, and then present all that imagery in a drag and drop navigable format in your Web browser.
It’s easier to see it in action rather than describe it here. To try Street View, go to maps.google.com and type in “missoula” and click search, and you’ll zoom right into the map view of downtown. Missoula will be flagged with a balloon with clickable links for driving directions. There are also buttons to switch between satellite view and map view.
For Street View, take your mouse and grab the little orange figure at the top of the zoom/direction control and drag it onto the map. Street View will pop up with the photographic panorama of where you dropped the orange figure, and the map will be reduced to the bottom right hand corner of the browser window.
Now, use the controls at the left to swing the panorama around to zoom in and out. The green direction arrow under the figure will spin around, too, showing you which way you’re looking. And there will be arrows, street names and approximate addresses that hover over the photograph of the street. You can click the arrows to expand the window and expand the map below the view of the street above. I think you’ll be amazed at what you can see.
Coming up: Next week I’ll tell you what I’ve found around town on Street View.
And feel free to e-mail me your own Street View links; use a service like snurl.com so your Web links don’t break in the e-mail.