A ghost town from space

Earth is Square has a neat post today about viewing Centralia, Pennsylanvia using fresh Bird’s Eye imagery on Bing Maps.  Centralia was an active town of about 1000 residents back in the early 1980’s, but now is home to only nine people.  The reason is due to an underground coal fire that’s been burning since the 60’s, and will continue burning for as many as 250 more years.

In 1984, congress provided $42 million to relocate residents out of town.  Once gone, most of the buildings were demolished.  A recent episode of Life After People (an excellent series on the History Channel) featured Centralia as an example of what happens 25 years after humans leave a city (building decay, etc).

I was hoping that Google’s Historical Imagery feature would show aerial footage from a time when the city was populated, but it only goes back to 1993.   Below are some before and after photos.  Check it out on Google Maps (with StreetView imagery) or Bing Maps to explore further.

centralia-beforeBefore the evacuation

centralia-beforeafterThen and now

centralia-ge-1993Centralia 1993, as seen in Google Earth using the Historical Imagery slider

centralia-bingCentralia today, in Bing Maps Bird’s Eye

centralia-streetviewCentralia today, in Google Maps Street View.  The fog makes it even creepier.

Swiss want StreetView Disabled

It’s only been up for a few days, but the Switzerland Data Protection office is asking Google to remove the StreetView imagery they’ve shot in the country.  Their primary concern seems to be that “many faces and vehicle number plates had not been covered up or were insufficiently blurred”.  If memory serves, that’s not even something Google is legally obligated to do — they simply do it to avoid outcry from privacy advocates like this, though I’m sure the laws vary from country to country.

Hanspeter Thuer from the Data Protection team plans to meet with Google next week and help them “improve” the service.  It’ll be interesting to see if anything comes of this.

New StreetView and 3D cities released

helsinkiIt’s been a busy day for Google.  Earlier in the day they unveiled Helsinki, Finland in 3D, and the coverage is quite comprehensive.  Google Earth Blog has the details.

Also, as pointed out by Google Maps Mania, StreetView imagery has been released for a few countries.  This update includes a few major cities in Portugal (Porto and Lisbon), solid coverage over much of Switzerland, and also around Taipei, Taiwan.

All in all, a pretty busy day for Google!

Google launches new StreetView site

To help people better understand how StreetView works, Google has launched a new site that has a lot of information about the service.  The site explains how they collect the imagery, how long it takes to process it, the areas of the world that are covered, etc.

It’s probably not overly exciting for most readers of this blog, but it’ll be a great place to point people that have questions about how it all works.

More details about the site can be found on the LatLong blog.

New “Smart Navigation” in StreetView

Google has just released a new feature for StreetView that looks pretty simple, but it actually quite complex and intuitive.  When viewing anything in StreetView, you’ll notice your is in the shape of an oval or a rectangle.  When it’s an oval, you can double-click to quickly move to that location. When it’s a rectangle (usually on building facades), you can double-click to be taken to the best view of that area.

Google was able to accomplish this using some slick methods, as explained on the Lat Long Blog:

We have been able to accomplish this by making a compact representation of the building facade and road geometry for all the Street View panoramas using laser point clouds and differences between consecutive pictures.

For more info, check out the Google Earth Blog, watch this short video below, or go try it for yourself.

StreetView now in full-screen

Golden Gate bridge in StreetViewThis certainly makes StreetView even better — full screen mode!  When viewing anything in StreetView, simply click the small grey icon in the upper-right corner (next to the “x”) and it will go full screen.

There’s really not much else to say but go look at it yourself.  Go check out the Golden Gate Bridge, the Eiffel Tower (thanks GMM) or the World’s Largest Alligator.

If you’re looking for more great sights (or you want to share some you’ve found), check out the Google Earth Hacks StreetView gallery, Google Sightseeing, or StreetView Fun.

StreetView now in the UK and the Netherlands

Google has just released a major update to StreetView, covering large areas in the UK and the Netherlands.


Google Maps Mania has already found a bunch of great locations.  Check them out, and then add your other finds to the GEH StreetView database.

Lots of new goodies from Google

Sorry for being so quiet lately.  I’ve got a few big projects going on and I’ve been away from the Google Earth scene for a few days.  However, things have been very active and there’s quite a lot to see!

More Historical Imagery — Google has added more historical imagery to Google Earth.  This is an awesome new feature in Google Earth 5.0, and it’s great that they’re continuing to add more data to it.

A great lesson about Google Earth imagery — Like Frank, I often talk to people that assume Google Earth imagery is real-time, or at least close to it.  As you probably know, that’s far from accurate.  It takes quite a lot of work to get imagery into Google Earth, and this article does a great job of explaining it.

StreetView is coming to Ireland — According to Silicon Republic (via StreetViewFun), Google StreetView is coming to Ireland.

Big updates to Google Mars — Oddly enough, we can’t have live imagery here on earth but now we have it on Mars!

Google Announces Bridge Modeling Competition — This will only serve to make the 3D views in Google Earth even better.

Lots of good stuff.  Go check out those articles, then fire up your copy of Google Earth and dive in!

Panoramio photos arrive in StreetView

panoramio-streetviewA new feature has arrived today for Google StreetView that allows you to browse Panoramio photos while in StreetView mode.  As of now, this feature is available in big cities such as New York, San Francisco, Rome, Tokyo, etc.

You don’t need to do anything special to get your photos in there.  These are taken from the same photoset as the main Panoramio photos.  Just send them your best shots and you might see them in StreetView!

A new StreetView-like service for Central Europe

NorcAs reported by Google Maps Mania, Norc has just launched a StreetView-like service for a handful of countries in Europe.  They use the Google Maps API to power their product, then drop in a bunch of interactive panoramic images.  You can’t move up up down streets quite as easily, but they provide small arrows in the corner to direct you to nearby paroramas, which are often just a few feet away (like StreetView).

Their current coverage includes Austria, Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia and Romania.