Google's Street View turns 15, adds new historical functionality on mobile for first time

One of the company's eight favourite images has a Kiwi connection.
One of the company's eight favourite images has a Kiwi connection. Photo credit: Supplied / Google

Google's Street View has allowed people to see their dead relatives as well as immortalising the SkyCity Convention Centre fire since it launched exactly 15 years ago.

Now, 220 billion Street View images and over 100 countries later, the company has unveiled a new camera that will give users more ways to explore historical imagery.

"Fifteen years ago, Street View began as a far-fetched idea from Google co-founder Larry Page to build a 360-degree map of the entire world," Ethan Russell, director of product for Google Maps wrote in a blog.

"Street View doesn't just help you virtually explore, it's also critical to our mapping efforts - letting you see the most up-to-date information about the world, while laying the foundation for a more immersive, intuitive map."

Previous cameras have already been used on the backs of camels in the Arabia desert, as well as on snowmobiles travelling through the Arctic, but the new camera will allow more high-quality images to be captured in more places.

"We're piloting a new camera that will fully roll out next year," Russell wrote.

"This new camera takes all the power, resolution and processing capabilities that we've built into an entire Street View car, and shrinks it down into an ultra-transportable camera system that's roughly the size of a house cat.

"But unlike house cats, it's ready to be taken to remote islands, up to the tops of mountains or on a stroll through your local town square."

The new camera weighs around seven kilograms, meaning it can be shipped anywhere, and is more customisable than previous versions, Russell wrote.

It's also modular, allowing components like laser scanners to be used to get even more details of the area.

As part of the birthday celebrations, Google is also extending the historical Street View images to mobile phones for the first time.

"Starting today on Android and iOS globally, it's now easier than ever to travel back in time right from your phone," Russell wrote.

"When you're viewing Street View imagery of a place, tap anywhere on the photo to see information about the location.

"Then tap 'See more dates' to see the historical imagery we've published of that place, dating back to when Street View launched in 2007."

As part of the 15-year milestone celebration, the company also unveiled its most popular places to explore on Street View.

"Head up to the 154th-floor of the Burj Khalifa in the United Arab Emirates, which was named the world’s tallest building; the iconic Eiffel Tower in France, complete with dazzling views of Paris from the top; and our special collection of imagery from the Taj Mahal in India," the company wrote.

In the same blog one of the eight Street View images highlighted as being loved by Google has a Kiwi connection.

"Does the thought of visiting an active volcano scare you? Us too!" Google wrote.

"A New Zealand-based Googler took a trekker into the active Ambrym Volcano Marum Crater in Vanuatu so you don’t have to."

The description is accompanied by an image of bubbling lava.