Friday, April 29, 2011

Google Streetview car updating the view of New Orleans

Posted By on Fri, Apr 29, 2011 at 2:09 PM

The Google Streetview car parked in the Garden District on St. Charles Avenue

Anyone living in New Orleans who's used Google Maps to find their intended destination have certainly experienced the same frustration at one point or another: the Google "Street View" of their destination doesn't much look like what it does in reality (if you don't believe me, just check out the Street View for the Rock N' Bowl).

That should come as no surprise. In a city still in the midst of recovery and with new spaces opening constantly and blighted property demolition a priority of the current administration, the city's landscape is undergoing a profound and continuous transformation.

So it should be good news for people looking for elusive addresses (or just seeking to asses the recovery) that the Google Street View car has been making the rounds in New Orleans to update its pictures.

Curious about the process, I contacted the people at Google Street View and asked what their protocols were for updating their pictures of different cities.

Google's Deanna Yick said the process starts with hiring local drivers on a short-term basis that are familiar with local streets. After pictures are taken, Google uses state-of-the-art face-blurring technology to preserve bystanders' anonymity and then puts them online.

"As we're doing now in New Orleans, from time to time we re-drive areas for refreshed imagery as part of our effort to provide our users with the richest, most up-to-date maps possible," Yick said via e-mail. "I'm not at liberty to share specific info about the schedule since routes are often subject to change based on a variety of factors, including weather, driving conditions and the speed of collection."

The last time Google was in New Orleans was in 2008, when they launched Street View images for the city. That launch was accompanied by a letter by then-Lieutenant Governor Mitch Landrieu. Landrieu said that he personally asked the people at Google to do a Street View for Louisiana.

In this time of recovery and rebuilding, it is important that we share real images of life in Louisiana and on the Gulf Coast. As you explore the streets of New Orleans, you will discover a city marked by extremes. You will see some areas spared the worst of Katrina’s fury which have quickly recovered, and you will find other neighborhoods that remain flattened by the floodwaters that broke the levees. You will see that our residents call both FEMA trailers and antebellum mansions home.

Now, three years later, New Orleanians will get a chance to see how far the recovery has actually come in New Orleans. If you don't think that much could have possibly changed in three years, I submit two pictures of my apartment. The first was taken by the Google-mobile back in 2008 and is the current "Street View" in Google maps:

Screencap of the current Google Street View of my apartment
  • Taken from Google Maps
  • Screencap of the current Google Street View of my apartment

And here's a picture of my apartment I took with my phone just a few minutes ago:

Actual current view of my apartment

Yick said Google is also updating overhead images of New Orleans using Google Earth's "Historical Images" feature and users can check out how Hurricane Katrina affected the landscape of the city here.

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