Since 2007, the little yellow-orange man, Pegman, has roamed the streets of the world thanks to the photos taken by thousands of cars equipped with Lidar radar and 360 cameras on the vehicle roof. They provide a real painstaking job to constantly update the streets of our cities, but also to add new places, urban or not, in the database of it. Launched on May 29, 2007, the Google Street View service is integrated into Google Maps and allows you to walk the streets virtually.
It was one of the two co-founders of Google, Larry Page, who had the idea of capturing a 360° view of the entire world. He started by borrowing a security van from Google’s Mountain View campus in California’s Silicon Valley and installing cameras on the roof, then roaming the halls of the headquarters to see if his idea would work. A few months later, five cities in the United States already had their “Google Street View”. These were San Francisco, New York, Miami and Denver. Since then, the service has gone global. For its 15th anniversary, a look back at 15 key numbers behind Google Street View’s success.
220 billion images on Google Street View
Since the launch of Google Street View, Google teams have taken some 220 billion photos, but the general public can also participate and take 360° images of public places. It is the largest database in the world. Specifically, the Street View vehicle constantly takes photos of its surroundings and the Lidar radars (laser detection and distance estimation) take measurements and create a point cloud to typologically describe the surroundings of the views (detection of buildings and their location) .
As soon as the photos are taken, they are processed on board the vehicle in an automated manner. In addition, people’s faces are automatically blurred to preserve the privacy of passers-by. Note also that an algorithm calculates the route that the driver should take to optimize the grid of a neighborhood and avoid going through the same street twice.
+100 countries involved
Since its launch 15 years ago, Google Street View has rolled out its service in many countries. “The countries in which we are not present is because the legislation does not allow it (North Korea, China, etc.), or because the security conditions for our teams would not be guaranteed in the field (war zones, risk of terrorism , etc.)”explains Gilles Dawidowicz, geographer and planetary scientist at Google.
16 million kilometers traveled
Since its inception in 2007, Google Street View vehicles have already 360° scanned more than 10 million miles of streets, highways, highways, roads and trails. For France only, coverage is now almost complete for all public roads in France.
A new map once a year
On average, Google Street View returns once a year to the streets of big cities like Paris (in this case, the new grid is created in just a few days). Not all streets are systematically photographed, but the busiest and most dynamic neighborhoods (where there is a lot of work) are renewed once a year on average. For less dense and less frequented areas, like the streets of a town, for example, updates are made approximately every 3-4 years.
400 times around the earth
Since the inception of Google Street View, vehicles have already circled the globe the equivalent of 400 times taking pictures of their surroundings.
From 25 to 7.5 kilos of photographic equipment
Such was the weight of the first team in charge of photographing the streets of a city. Originally, the first 360° capture module consisted of fifteen Lidar cameras and radars. Gradually, as the technology has evolved, the weight has increased to 12.5 kilos and then, in the new version that will arrive in 2023, a new device of 7.5 kilos will be implemented. Equipped with handles, modular cameras and 2 Lidars, it can be placed on the roof of a car, stowed in a backpack or carried bare-handed as needed.
The Eiffel Tower is the second most “visited” place in the world
Google has been tracking the traffic levels of the world’s most popular places for a year. And he drew a ranking with, on the podium:
50 billion daily updates for Google Street View
Google Street View records 50 billion new data added every day. For 50%, it is artificial intelligence that enriches the database by decoding the photos. In fact, in a photo of a restaurant window, for example, the artificial intelligence is capable of “reading” the opening hours, a telephone number, the menu and prices, the opening hours, etc. The other half of the new data (25 billion therefore), comes from the community of “local guides”, that is, from the general public who will take a photo of a dish in a restaurant and add it to Google, rate a place, etc. Added to this are around 1,000 content and photo associations from Google’s own team.
France in the Top 10 of the most visited countries in the world (between May 2021 and May 2022)
France ranks ninth among the most visited countries virtually through Google Street View. This is the ranking of the top 10:
- United Kingdom
Paris, ninth most “visited” city in the world in Google Street View
- Mexico City
- Sao Polo
- Buenos Aires
- New York
The 10 most visited places in France are…
- Eiffel Tower
- ocean serpent
- Louvre Museum
- Arc de Triomphe
- Disney Land Paris
- The Park of the Princes
- Sacred heart
- Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris
- Versailles castle
- The pantheon
It should be noted that for the second most popular location, the Serpent d’Océan in Saint-Brévin-les-Pins on the Atlantic coast in Pays de la Loire, the 360° photography of the artwork was taken by an individual who uploaded his photo to Google.
Google Street View in space since 2017
Cocorico, it is thanks to Thomas Pesquet that Google Street View also covers the space. At least it is available to visit the International Space Station (ISS). During his first mission, Proxima, in 2017, the French astronaut volunteered to take 360° photos of each cylinder that makes up the ISS. To do this, he had to pull cables horizontally and vertically from each cylinder until he found the center point so that he could place the photographic equipment in the correct place.
More than 3 years to create Versailles VR
Google sometimes goes beyond just taking pictures of streets and thoroughfares. Thus, you can visit emblematic places in “Street View” mode such as the summit of Mont Blanc, Mont-Saint-Michel, the Dune du Pyla or the reserves of the Mucem museum in Marseille. But for the Palace of Versailles, Google decided to go a step further and manually took several hundred thousand photos (using the technique of photogrammetry) to be able to visit Versailles with virtual reality glasses with a definition never before known. It was more than 3 years of work in total.
2 days to recreate the Invalides in Google Street View
It took only two mornings of light tripod shots to create a virtual 360° rendering of the Musée des Invalides in Paris, from the tomb of Napoleon I to the top of the golden dome of Saint-Louis Cathedral through the Main playground. Created in the 17th century under Louis XIV, this building houses both a military corps, a hospital, a place of worship, an army museum, and even shadow administrative services (intelligence, etc.).
This May 24, 2022, Google reveals the interior of part of the building in Street View and allows you to discover in the smallest details, “the dome and its inverted shell architecture, the ceiling frescoes and paintings signed by Charles de La Fosse, but also the impressive view of the whole of Paris from the ‘roof’, the lantern of the dome, made of 13 kilos of gold and located 107 meters above the ground”explains Cécile Chassagne, head of digital mission and innovation at the Army Museum and the Hôtel des Invalides.
A dozen different ways to capture unusual places
To immortalize hard-to-reach places on Google Street View, Google is not short of ideas. The American giant has already installed its camera system on a gondola to photograph the canals of Venice in Italy, on a tricycle to get as close as possible to the megalithic monument of Stonehenge in England, pulled by sled dogs in the Far North, on a horse to cross the Andes in Latin America, on a camel in the Arabian desert…
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