Thursday, May 08, 2014

The 5 Greatest Guided Street View Tours

Google Maps Street View is an incredibly rich and impressive resource available to developers through the Google Maps API. Using Street View with the Maps API it is possible to create fully immersive and interactive guided tours of locations around the world.

Here are a few of my favorite guided Street View tours, created with the Google Maps API:

1. Hashima Island - The Forgotten World

In June last year Google added Street View imagery of the abandoned Japanese island of Hashima, in Nagasaki Prefecture. Hashima Island - The Forgotten World is an amazing tour of Google's Street View imagery of the island, which includes the historical background of the featured locations and the desolate landscape.

The site is a great guide to the island, adding context and the back-story to Google's amazing imagery of the island. The Street Views in this tour have been enhanced with some CSS3 filters to create an even spookier atmosphere, which is intensified further by the accompaniment of some suitably spectral background music and sound. The children's voices and school bells that play when you stand in Hashima Primary School playground made the hairs on the back of my neck stand-up.

Hashima Island - The Forgotten World is a Chrome Experiment, so you will have to view the site in Chrome to get the full effect.

2. Petra

Where Street View isn't available you can often use Photo Spheres instead. Photo Spheres are 360 degree panoramic images submitted to Google Maps by the public. I used Photo Spheres to create this short tour of Petra in Jordan.

Google has yet to capture Street View imagery of this historic city. However a few Photo Spheres of some of the important buildings in the city have been added to Google Maps. I simply used the Google Maps API to create a short guided tour of Petra using some of these uploaded panoramic photos.

Photo Spheres can be used with the Street View service of the Google Maps API by using a Photo Sphere image's PanoID. If you want to discover what Photo Spheres are available at a location Google Maps Views is a great place to explore. Views is Google's gallery of Photo Spheres added to Google Maps around the world.

An alternative to using Photo Spheres is to create your own 360 degree panoramas and use the Custom Street View service in the Google Maps API. A great example of using custom Street Views is Google Night Walk.

3. Google Night Walk

Google Night Walk is an amazing narrated Street View tour of Marseilles at night. Google Night Walk takes you on an immersive journey through the lively Cours Julien neighbourhood of Marseille. The Street View tour of night-time Marseilles includes an audio narrated guide by Julie and Christophe, two urban storytellers, who help explain the living history of the city.

As you navigate the night-time panoramic imagery of Google Night Walk follow the blue line in the Street View to listen to Julie and Christophe's narrated guide. You can also deviate from the narrated guide at anytime and explore the city under your own steam by following the dotted paths off of the main tour.

Google Night Walk is a joint project by Google Creative Labs and 72andSunny. The narrator, Julie Muer, is an urban storyteller who walks the streets of Marseilles, collecting the sounds and voices of the city.

To create this guided Street View tour of Marseilles at night 72andSunny were lucky enough to have the help of Google's Street View Trekker technology. However you don't need expensive camera equipment to capture 360 degree panoramas. There are a number of online services which can help you create panoramas. Alternatively you can use free software, like Microsoft's ICE to stitch together a number of photos to create one panorama.

4. National Parks with Nature Valley Trail View

The Nature Valley Trail View is a beautiful map of trails in some of American's National Parks. The Nature Valley Trail View Street View tours are great examples of using custom shot panoramic imagery with the Google Maps API.

The map includes a number of trails, each of which can be experienced with a glorious animated custom Street View tour. If you click on the menu link you can select any of the trails and then virtually walk the trail with custom Street Views of the whole trail.

Each tour includes an option to animate a walk on the trail, so you can just sit back and watch as you walk the trail with custom Street Views.

5. South Africa with Isuzu Trail View

Thanks to Isuzu Trail View it is now possible to take a virtual Street View drive on some of South Africa's best off-road trails. Isuzu equipped a Isuzu KB with a 360 degree camera and captured custom Street View imagery of four off-road trails.

Users can select any of the four trails and view the 360 degree imagery just as they would with Google Maps Street View. Each trail includes a handy little feature that allows users to capture a picture of any beautiful views that are found whilst navigating a trail and then share the image via social media.

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