The company announced on Friday that Google Earth now lets people browse more than 36 million square miles of high definition satellite images from various providers – covering more than 98 percent of the entire population – to see the world from above.
“While these stunning photos show us parts of the world we may never get a chance to visit, they also help Google Maps accurately model a world that is changing each day,” said Thomas Escobar, Senior Product Manager, Google Maps.
The idea of Street View started as a side project more than 12 years ago as part of a goal to map the entire world.
The company collects street imagery via a fleet of Street View cars, each equipped with nine cameras that capture high-definition imagery from every vantage point possible.
“These cameras are athermal, meaning that theya¿re designed to handle extreme temperatures without changing focus so they can function in a range of environments,” Escobar added.
Each Street View car includes its own photo processing center and lidar sensors that use laser beams to accurately measure distance.
There’s also the Street View Trekker, a backpack that collects imagery from places where driving isn’t possible.
These trekkers are carried by boats, sheep, camels, and even scout troops to gather high-quality photos from multiple angles, often in some of the hardest-to-map places around the world.
In 2019 alone, Street View images from the Google Maps community have helped the company assign addresses to nearly seven million buildings in previously under-mapped places like Armenia, Bermuda, Lebanon, Myanmar, Tonga, Zanzibar, and Zimbabwe.
Once Google collects photos, it uses a technique called photogrammetry to align and stitch together a single set of images.
“These images show us critically important details about an area-things like roads, lane markings, buildings, and rivers, along with the precise distance between each of these objects. All of this information is gathered without ever needing to set foot in the location itself,” said Google.