Google is back in Atlanta, GA making Street View images for Google Maps but, this time they brought in the big guns. The cars here today are equipped with GPS, high resolution panoramic cameras and multiple SICK sensors. These sensors collect LiDAR data that can be used for 3D imaging and visualizations like that seen in Radiohead's recent "House of Cards" music video. Google Earth and SketchUp, Google's 3D virtual building maker for Maps also use this type of data.
Last week Google announced the release of a plugin which allows users access to Google Earth imagery via Maps. As a result it's now possible to view 3d images in Google Maps. The problem here is fairly obvious, Google Earth's aerial imagery is taken from above and as a result not from the same perspective as users interacting with the data. Not to worry though, the StreetView team has been working on these kinds of problems for sometime. When it comes to Navigation, Maps or StreetView, earthbound LiDAR enhanced imagery processed via Sketchup seems like a perfect complement to Google's existing view from above. Combining high resolution imagery taken from the user's perspective with advanced 3D image technology, presents some new possibilities to say the least. Factor in new releases like business ads in Maps, now being available in 3D on your mobile device and it's pretty clear how Sketchup will be monetized.
Atlanta welcomes the Google Street View Car Team! Monday, I had the rare opportunity to hit the streets and check out one of Google's original Street View cars from Mt. View, CA right here in Atlanta, GA. (new hubcaps?)
In case ya'll : ) don't know about Google Street View it's a Google Maps feature where users can explore cityscapes, landmarks, take virtual walks; pan, rotate and zoom in on points of interest, shops, restaurants, parks, hotels and more. All of this immersive interactivity is made possible thanks to a fleet of cars owned by Google and equipped with a roof mounted GPS camera system.
Google's Street View Car fleet are "Blue Flash Metallic" 2007 Chevrolet Cobalt LS 4 doors. Each has a 148-hp 2.2L engine and get about 22 miles per gallon city, 31 hwy. The original Google Maps Street View fleet features an automatic transmission, head-curtain as well as side-impact air bags, CD/MP3 player and center console with armrest standard. In addition to the standard equipment each car is equipped with a "custom" roof rack, panoramic camera mount, external roof mounted cell phone antenna and Topcon PG-A1 high precision standard and/or dual-frequency, dual-consellation antenna GPS antenna with a range of 1217-1260 MHz.
Inside the car you'll find the Google Street View Maps Team custom EVDO Rev A USB720 modem connected via Verizon's Wireless mobile network. This modem features download speeds of 450-800 kilobits per second (kbps) and average upload speeds of 300-400 kbps. The wireless modem is compatible with many of the latest laptops and measures 3.52 x 1.49 x .69 inches (89.5 x 38 x 17.6 mm) and 1.6 ounces (45 g) according to the manufacturer. All this is connected to a Topcon Odyssey-RS GPS Receiver equipped with it's own Paradigm chip offering 40 universal channel selection via L1 and/or L2 GPS and GLONASS satellite system each with signal processing, multi-path mitigation and co-op tracking. According to Topcon their GPS+ rates best in the field for under-canopy and low signal strength reception via USB. In the front seat of each car, there is a "custom" handmade wood frame to support the drivers Planar LX1200TI touchscreen AMLCD monitor designed for daylight/night viewing. The touch screen is mounted low so as to be in view of the driver only and not seen by occupants in other cars. The USB Touchscreen supports Windows 2000/XP.
While I stood there checking out all the features Google has packed into this car I couldn't help but wonder where all this little car has gone in the past year. You can't expect to see at least one of these in a museum before all is said and done. Either way cool car and thanks for the nickel tour guys!