1930’s Teddington Street View

I will happily admit that this post may only be of interest to my Teddington Readers, (Hi Gary !!) but this is just such an interesting video.

It follows the route of the Trolleybus between Twickenham and Teddington on it’s first day of operation in May 1931. Trolleybuses, electric powered buses as you find in many European Cities today were once popular in London, but with great foresight were replaced with diesel powered buses only 20 years later! This trolleybus route is now the 281 bus for example.

What I found really fascinating is just how much of the familiar landscape I see every day has changed in 80 years, in some cases it’s really hard to find a building that you recognise today, especially the turning point in Teddington only a few hundred metres from where I live but almost impossible to recognise.

We are lucky to have rare video like this for it’s completeness but at the same time it’s disappointing that for future generations Google Street View which could offer a similar resouce has had to be mutilated to accomodate privacy concerns.

Written and submitted from home (51.425N, 0.331W)

Germany doomed never to innovate ?

An interesting article by the BBC’s Berlin correspondent on Germany’s problem with Street View.

The Bradenberg Gate, or not..

The article suggests part of the reason why Germany seems to have such a problem accepting a service that is used in many other developed countries is a cultural distrust of the new, and an inability to innovate. The article quotes Prof Nicolas Apostolopoulos from the Centre for Digital Systems at the Free University in Berlin,

“..people in Britain or the United States tend to see the possibilities of new technology, while Germans tend to see the dangers.”

I’m not convinced this is the case completely, just look at the thriving geo-community in Berlin, and the love of OpenStreetMap in Germany, German cities in OpenStreetMap contain the most detailed mapping you are likely to see anywhere, and that mapping has been contributed by the same people who don’t want pictures of their buildings to appear online ?

An alternative view is that Street View has become a political football in Germany to a greater extent than any other country, and politicians and the media have jumped on the issue, as a way of getting noticed and filling column inches. Google bashing seems to be a popular activity amongst the chattering classes in Berlin..

I really don’t agree with the view that there is “a downside to innovation”,  tell that to the manufacturing industry in the UK. Clearly not all new ideas or products will work, indeed most will fail,  but to try and stop innovation is like trying to ignore gravity!

The voice that seems under represented so far are the potential users of street view in Germany..

Written and submitted from the Google Offices, London (51.495N, 0.146W)

Placeroulette anyone..

As a fun demostration of just how extenive StreetView coverage now is, it’s hard to beat Globe Genie, the product of MIT student Joe McMichael. Try it without the Map display to test just how powerful our ability to identify places from just visual clues is or is not 🙂

Can you tell where this is ?

Written and submitted from the Google Offices, London (51.495N, 0.146W)

From the Earth to the Moon

Today some 230,000 miles of Street View coverage has gone live in Google Maps, which represents arguably the most detailed map of the UK every produced. I say this because of the amount of information contained in each panoramic photograph is simply massive.

Yes it may not look like a conventional cartographic map, but it is nevertheless rich geospatial information and represents the next evolution of maps.

Street View images contain both quantitative information, parking restrictions from signs, opening times of shops, the type of tree most common is the surburan streets of Manchester and qualitative information, the “sense of place” something  very difficult to represent using traditional cartographic techniques.

Street View imagery in the UK will I hope become a valuable resource to academics researching the state of the nation at the beginning of the 2010’s, a image taken every 10 metres or so for 238,000 miles a distance equivalent to travelling from the earth to the moon, must represent one of the largest archives of photographs ever collected.

It is disappointing that the raw images used to create street view will have to be destroyed at the request of the European Union Data Protection Working Party, leaving only the privacy blurred published versions for future generations to accesses, still that is the balance we need to achieve between providing useful services and protecting privacy.

When I was running around Covent Garden in the early 1990’s creating a “hypermedia” map using a video camera and Apple’s Hypercard, I had a vague idea that such a database of navigable scenes might be extended to other parts of London, but National Coverage… that would have been Science Fiction !

But then again so once was putting a man on the moon !

Written and submitted from home (51.425N, 0.331W)

Just think of the guy who has to pedal..

We have been asking people to vote on the tourist destination that would most like to see covered by Street View in the UK. In many cases the destinations short listed with help from Visit Britain, are not accessible with a car, hence these destinations will have the street view imagery captured using one of custom build tricycles designed for the purpose.

On your trike
On your trike

I have voted for Stonehenge myself, and of course I am not going to try and influence your decision, but just think of our poor cyclist (not me !!) who may have to cycle round Loch Ness or the Pembrokeshire Coast.

Written and submitted from NH Atlanta Hotel, using the swisscom 802.11 network.