Google Street View Takes The Plunge
Tuesday, October 9th, 2012
by Jason Taetsch
Ever since its inception 14 years ago, Google has revealed the secrets of the web to Internet users across the globe. This past week, Brian Mclendon, VP of Google Maps and Earth, announced Google is taking on the secrets of the deep with the first underwater panoramic images from Google Maps.
Using the platform’s Street View technology, Google Maps users can now explore six of the world’s vibrant coral reefs. The technology provides 360-degree panoramic views of a number of the world’s most colorful and vulnerable ecosystems, some of which have never been seen with human eyes.
With the first version of underwater Street View, you can follow a sea turtle or manta ray along the Great Barrier Reef of Australia — one of our planet’s natural wonders — or visit ancient coral formations in the Philippines that have been alive for centuries.
You can follow a group of snorkelers through the picturesque Molokini Crater off of Maui. Users can zoom-in on wildlife, “swim” around to different parts of the reef, or pull back to get an overview of the reef’s ecosystem — all with just a few clicks of the mouse. According to Mclendon’s announcement, the underwater Street Views are “the next step in our quest to provide people with the most comprehensive, accurate and usable map of the world”.
What Lies Beneath? Camera Tech
Google’s underwater Street View is made possible by a partnership with the Catlin Seaview Survey, a series of global expeditions designed to capture the planet’s coral reefs using the latest camera technology. The expeditions’ goal is to create “virtual dives” that allow users to explore up-close and intimate aspects of the coral reefs without ever having to get their feet wet.
The Catlin Survey uses a specially designed Seaview SVII underwater camera to capture images of the reefs that Jacques Cousteau could only dream of. The SVII takes a 360-degree image every 3-seconds, all while traveling along at a top-speed of 4 km/h. The captured images are then stitched together in such a way that anyone with a computer and viable Internet connection can “navigate” along the virtual dive. Geo-location and direction data are included with each of the images, creating an interactive historical record of the reefs that will be compared against future surveys for a detailed analysis of the health of our oceans.
The SVII is operated with a waterproof tablet that allows the camera operator to change settings, adjust focus, and retrieve data — all while underwater and without ever having to open the camera’s housing.
Virtual Underwater Tourism
According to estimates from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, 95% of the coral reefs have never been seen. Google’s new Street View of the oceans is an important first step in bringing underwater exploration to the masses, a process that will hopefully inspire a whole new generation of explorers to search out the mysteries of the deep.
Jason Taetsch is a freelance content writer with experience in tech writing, blogs, travel writing, pop culture and a range of promotional materials. Jason blogs via Contently.com.