Monday, March 31, 2014

Live Streaming Street View on Google Maps

Live streaming Street View is coming soon to Google Maps. The new imagery will be similar to the present Street View only, instead of using still images, it will involve real-time streaming images. Once the new streaming Street View goes live you will be able to click on Google Maps and actual see what is happening at a location live and in real-time.

Here's a little background on this story:

Yesterday I was contacted by a developer in Switzerland. While poking around in the javascript for Street View he spotted a reference to 'streaming_streetview'. The developer e-mailed me asking me if I had any idea what this might be referring to.

In the code the reference to streaming Street View has a location attached to it but when you open the Street View in Google Maps it just displays the normal static Street View. However the reference to 'streaming_streetview' also has a panoID attached to it. I therefore decided to use the Google Maps API to create a Street View instance and entered in the panoID.

The result is an amazing real-time streaming Street View from the location. I've put this little hack on-line and you can see Google's test demo of streaming Street View in action for yourself - here.

Yesterday I also tried to get in touch with a few of the people I know in the Google Maps team, in order to try to get some more information on this. At first Google, as ever, were very tight lipped about this. However, once I told them I was going to publish news of this anyway, I did manage to get a statement out of Google.

Here's what Mike Marks, of the Google Maps Development Team, told me,

"We are working on introducing streaming Street View on Google Maps. However we are presently a long way from going live with this. At the moment we have a number of logistical and privacy issues that we need to resolve before we are ready to add streaming Street View to Google Maps.

I can't tell you much about the logistical problems because that will give away the camera locations - and we don't want to give that information out yet. The other issues we have are to do with people's privacy. We have been working on updating our face blurring technology so that we can hide people's faces as they walk around on camera. We have come a long way with that but we still have some work to do before that technology is perfected. Rest assured we will not be releasing streaming Street View until we are certain that we can protect people's privacy when they appear live on Google Maps"

So it appears we have a little time to wait before live streaming Street View is released on Google Maps. While you wait you can check out the little secret demo of the technology that Google are testing here. Currently the test camera is broadcasting in black & white. Hopefully Google will be switching to color cameras before they eventually do go live with this on Google Maps.

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