Google’s Immersive Street View could be a look at Metaverse

Fifteen years after its launch, a Google Maps feature that lets people explore distant places as if they were right there offers a glimpse into the metaverse heralded as the future of the internet.

There was no talk of online life moving to virtual worlds when a “far-fetched” musing by Google co-founder Larry Page led to Street View, which lets users of the company’s free navigation service view images of map locations from around the world perspective of being there.

Now the Metaverse is on the rise in the tech world, with companies like Facebook parent company Meta investing in the creation of online spaces where people, represented by video game-like characters, work, play, shop and much more.

“Larry Page took a video camera and stuck it out the window of his car,” said Steven Silverman, Google’s senior technical program manager, while showing AFP the garage where the company builds cameras for cars, bikes, backpacks and even snowmobiles. which are sent to take 360 ​​degree images worldwide.

“He spoke to some of his colleagues at the time and said, ‘I bet we can do something with this.’ That was the beginning of Street View.”

With Street View, users can click on places on Google Maps to see what that place might look like and even look around.

Now the internet giant is introducing an “immersive view” that fuses Street View imagery with artificial intelligence to create “a rich, digital model of the world,” said Miriam Daniel, vice president of Google Maps Experiences, in a post.

“You can experience what a neighborhood, landmark, restaurant, or popular venue is like — and even feel like you’re there before you even set foot inside,” Daniel said.

“With a quick search, you can virtually hover over Westminster for an up-close look at the neighborhood and the stunning architecture of places like Big Ben.”

Google will begin rolling out Immersive View later this year, starting in Los Angeles, London, New York, San Francisco, and Tokyo.

Street View imagery has been collected in more than 100 countries and territories, from places like Mount Fuji and Grand Canyon National Park to the Great Barrier Reef.

“If you want to see what it’s like to go down a ski slope, you can see where the snowmobile went,” Silverman said, nodding toward a maroon snowmobile in the garage in Mountain View, Calif., in Silicon Valley.

Tech-packed camera gear tailored for cars, bikes, snowmobiles and backpacks is used by Google to collect images that allow people to virtually explore places with its free mapping service

Brittany Hosea-Klein

“This trike was really fun because it went around Stonehenge and we put it on a barge and we went down the Amazon,” he said of another vehicle.

He pointed to a backpack camera system recorded for a zip line ride in the Amazon to provide a bird’s eye view.

Years of capturing the real world in 360-degree imagery bode well for Google in anticipating a future where internet life shifts to immersive digital worlds, said Carolina Milanesi, tech analyst at Creative Strategies.

“It’s absolutely set in the metaverse,” Milanesi said.

“The idea of ​​a digital twin of the world is certainly one aspect of this that Google will solve.”

Silverman justified this by saying that Street View has in some way provided users with a virtual experience for more than a decade and the images are naturally suitable for representing the real world in virtual environments.

“Ideally, that’s where we’re going to be in that metaverse, that world that we’re moving into,” Silverman said.

Numerous tech companies have rushed to invest in building the Metaverse, a loose term that covers the growing ecosystem of online interactive worlds, games and 3D hangouts that are already attracting millions of users.

Facebook last year renamed its parent company Meta to underscore its virtual reality vision and opened virtual reality platform Horizon World to the North American public.

Earlier this year, Japanese giant Sony and Lego’s Danish parent company announced a $2 billion investment in US gaming powerhouse Epic Games for its work to join the Metaverse vision for the future of the internet.

Minimalist precursors to the metaverse already exist in the form of video games like Epic’s hit Fortnite, where people not only come together to play, but also to interact and participate.

What started out as a “far-fetched idea” by Page is “critical to our mapping efforts — letting you see the most up-to-date information about the world while laying the foundation for a more comprehensive, more intuitive map,” Google Maps Product Director Ethan Russell said in a blog post.

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