Google Maps is global, so why not Google StreetView as well? A London expansion is suggested by this image of one of the vehicles that takes the 360 degree street images. (Google has done some of the photography itself, but also uses partner Immersive Media in the U.S.). StreetView image collection is apparently underway in Canada, although there are some legal issues surrounding privacy and consent to be photographed that make it somewhat more complicated than in the U.S.
If or when StreetView expands globally, or at least to Western Europe, it becomes a travel tool for U.S. residents (or for Europeans coming to the U.S. who want to take advantage of the weakening dollar). In the travel context, there are already Trivop and TVtrip, which offer video tours of hotel interiors and surrounding exteriors in Europe.
Before StreetView, the first company to do something similar was France’s directory publisher Pages Jaunes (Yellow Pages). Of course, Pages Jaunes did it the old fashioned way, with humans taking the pictures of building exteriors and storefronts instead of machines. In the U.S., Amazon preceded StreetView with A9 “Block View,” but it shut down the effort (perhaps prematurely). The company, I’m told, still owns patents in the area.
Postscript: Google officially confirmed to us that StreetView is going to the UK and Europe (and elsewhere eventually around the globe). Coverage right now is focused on “major metropolitan areas.” No word, however, on when these images will go live.
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