There was still no talk of moving from online life to virtual worlds when a “wacky” thought by Google co-founder Larry Page prompted Street View, which lets users of the free browser service of the company to see images of map locations from the perspective of being there.
Today, the Metaverse is a global tech buzz, with companies such as Facebook’s parent company Meta investing in creating online domains where people represented by video game-like characters work, play, buy and more.
“Larry Page took a video camera and stuck it out of his car window,” Steven Silverman, Google’s senior technical program manager, said while showing AFP the garage where the company makes cameras. for cars, bikes, backpacks and even snowmobiles sent to capture. 360 degree images around the world.
“He was talking to some of his colleagues at the time, saying, ‘I bet we can do something with this. That was the start of Street View.”
Street View lets users click on locations in Google Maps to see what it might look like if they were there, and even look around.
Today, the internet giant is introducing an “immersive view” that merges Street View imagery with artificial intelligence to create “a rich digital model of the world”, said Miriam Daniel, vice president of Google Maps Experiences, in a message.
“You’ll be able to experience what a neighborhood, landmark, restaurant, or popular spot is like — and even feel like you’re there before you even set foot there,” Daniel said.
“With a quick search, you can virtually fly over Westminster to see the neighborhood up close and the stunning architecture of places, like Big Ben.”
Google will begin rolling out the Immersive View later this year, starting in Los Angeles, London, New York, San Francisco, and Tokyo.
Maps to the Metaverse Street View images have been collected from more than 100 countries and territories, ranging from places like Mount Fuji and Grand Canyon National Park to the Great Barrier Reef.
“If you want to see what it’s like to go down a ski hill, you can see where that sled went,” Silverman said, nodding to a brown sled in the Mountain View town garage. , in Silicon Valley, California.
“That trike was really funny because it went around Stonehenge; and we put it on a barge and went down the Amazon River,” he said of another vehicle.
He pointed to a backpack camera system taken for a zipline ride in the Amazon, to provide a bird’s-eye perspective.
Years of capturing the real world in 360-degree images bode well for Google when it comes to a future in which life on the internet shifts to immersive digital worlds, said technical analyst Carolina Milanesi. at Creative Strategies.
“It absolutely plays into the metaverse,” Milanesi said.
“The idea of a digital twin of the world is definitely one aspect of this that Google will address.”
Silverman felt that, in a sense, Street View has provided users with a virtual experience for over a decade, and that the imagery naturally lends itself to depicting the real world in virtual environments.
“Ideally, this metaverse, this world that we’re entering, we’ll be there,” Silverman said.
Dozens of tech companies have rushed to invest in building the metaverse, a loose term covering the growing ecosystem of interactive online worlds, games and 3D hangouts that already attract millions of users.
Facebook rebranded its parent company to Meta last year to underscore its vision for virtual reality and opened the Horizon World virtual reality platform to North American audiences.
Earlier this year, Japanese giant Sony and Danish parent company Lego announced a $2 billion investment in US gaming giant Epic Games for its work to join the metaverse’s vision for the future of the internet. .
In the form of video games such as Epic’s hit Fortnite, precursors to the metaverse already exist in a minimalist way, with people coming together not just to play, but also to interact and participate in events.
What started as Page’s “wacky idea” is “essential to our mapping efforts – allowing you to see the most up-to-date information about the world, while laying the foundation for a more immersive and intuitive map”, Google Ethan Russell, Product Director of Maps, said in a blog post.