Google Street View is a fantastic resource for exploring far-flung parts of the world, but its colossal archive of panoramic photos can be daunting. Where do you go first? What should you be looking at? Where can you find out more?
In a new project called Google Night Walk, the company has created an immersive tour through Cours Julien, a neighbourhood of Marseille, France. Just like an audio guide in a museum, narrators Julie and Christophe lead you across the city and point out places of interest. It’s immersive and educational, explaining the history and context behind Marseille’s landmarks.
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A mini-map in the bottom left-hand corner displays your progress through the city and, if you’re feeling impatient, you can expand the tool and click on the route to instantly jump ahead. Certain hotspots trigger YouTube clips, Wikipedia extracts and photo galleries, creating a multi-layered experience that’s far more rewarding and engaging than Street View on its own.
“The walk itself is augmented via the Google Knowledge Graph, which adds contextual data and information pulled from the vast semantic database at our disposal,” the company says.
“Mobile users are treated to mobile-first functionalities, which use the Google Places API to pull in local data based on their location. Everything lives and loads in the cloud, running on top of the Google App Engine.”
Many wonder how virtual reality headsets such as the Oculus Rift and Sony Morpheus will impact how we experience the world around us. There’s certainly a great deal of potential, although Google Night Walk is proof of the potential for existing technologies too.
Provided you can translate a little French, it’s also worth checking out the Promenades Sonores site to discover more about the audio city tours that Julie, one of the narrators, records and produces in Marseille.
Google has already been to Venice, the Galapagos Islands, a deserted city caught up in the Fukushima disaster and Mount Everest in its mission to capture the world with Street View. Most recently, the company uploaded 360-degree panoramic photos for Cambodia’s iconic Angkor Wat site.