Do you remember where you were the first time that you heard that your house (or the house of someone that you know) could be seen on a Google map? More importantly, do you remember how you felt when you saw it for yourself for the first time? Shocked? Excited? Creeped out?
When it comes to the ever-evolving transitions in technology, sometimes we just think about the result without really wondering what’s going on behind the scenes. Well, when it comes to images on Google maps, and more specifically Street Views that are currently available in virtually all parts of the world, it’s “thanks” to a fleet of cars that literally drive through streets to grasp images of businesses, stores and yes, even our homes. Not only do they capture these images, but they also update them on a fairly regular basis as well (so yes, they’ve probably been by your house at least a few times by now!).
Yet just when we were getting used to (or at least tolerating) the idea of there being views of basically everything in the world online, now there’s a new announcement from Belgium.
One thing that made the Street View process a bit challenging for Google was that their cars were too large for narrow streets, which made it difficult to tape in smaller cities, cobble roads…you get the idea. However, thanks to Happiness Brussels, a communications-based company in Belgium, a Toyota iQ model (the i stands for “individuality”, “intelligence” and “innovation”, by the way) is going to attempt to complete the Street Views all across Europe—to “expose” even the streets that, up until now, we’re “off of the radar”.
One Toyota iQ, a vehicle that is affectionately known as “The Brick”, has been updated with a series of computers, cables and even a 360-degree camera (with extensions); that’s a part of what had made its searches so successful. Another is due to its size. Let’s just say that it is a car that is super tiny.
So how is Happiness Brussels making it all happen? Well, once the company contacted Google to get the OK, they then reached out to some camera suppliers in Holland, Germany and Spain to get a few extended cameras. Then, they made a list of the streets that were missing from Google maps (mostly through crowdsourcing) and they’ve been collecting shots even since.
The car is currently on the road (you can see it in action for yourself at http://iqstreetview.be) and is slated to run for the rest of the year, capturing images and data that will be put on servers. Reportedly, the car will pull into one of its own carports once Happiness Brussels believes that there are no more streets to view. And, although the company is not being sponsored by Google, the Google Creative Sandbox team has gone on record to praise the company’s creativity. Once all of the images and data have been collected, they will hand it over to Google in hopes that the information will be officially used on Google maps.
If you live on a really narrow street in America, you probably still have a bit of time before your house can be “Googled”, but you know how Google is. They don’t take too well to someone being more innovative than they are. So, when it comes a “brick” heading towards your home, honestly, it’s probably only a matter of time.
And thanks to Happiness Brussels, the clock is now ticking.
Evan Fischer is a contributing writer for Get Carports, the premier manufacturer in carports and metal buildings.