Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Analog Google Street View

I don't know about you, but I'm impressed by Google Street View pretty much every day.  It lets me know what my destination looks like before i go there.  It lets me vicariously travel to far away places.  Recently, it even let me look around inside a restaurant where I was planning to meet someone.  Pretty cutting edge stuff.  Can you imagine what it would have seemed like to people 30 years ago?  Well, a colleague of mine actually built a very similar system back in 1978.  Michael Naimark and friends used mostly analog technology to create a very similar system.
They rigged up a vehicle with several film cameras on the roof and made them take a picture every time the vehicle moved 10 feet.  The results were put onto a video laserdisc (remember those) and tied into a system that let you navigate through the town of Aspen Colorado.  You could wander down streets of your choosing, see your location on an overhead map view and even, in some cases, navigate to an interior view of certain buildings.  Of course, the power of Street View comes from the fact that it has world wide coverage, is available to everyone and updated continuously.  Still, this was quite an interesting glimpse into the future back in 1978.
I recommend reading this short article, which Michael claims is pretty accurate other than the fact that he says it gives him too much credit.