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Yesterday, I started swimming again. In the two years I’ve lived at my current residence, with a pool right outside my door, I haven’t actually swam yet. Soon, I recalled why – the pool is quite tiny. It only took a few strokes to get from one side to the other. I briefly wondered just exactly how long the pool is and also how long the distance I normally run is.

For years, I’ve wondered how one would figure that out with a car. These days, it turns out to be really simple! I simply type in my address into google maps, zoom in, and put it on satellite view. An incredibly clear image of my house and surrounding area comes up. I just use a piece of paper, measure each of the distances, and apply the scale. Ah ha! The laps I run are 469 meters. I normally run 11 laps, covering a distance of about 3.2 miles. The pool outside my apartment is only a measly 12.5 meters by 5 meters. Isn’t it absolutely amazing to me that I am able to measure the distance I run from the comfort of my home, with extreme precision?

Before long, I noticed google map’s new feature – The Street View. Apparently, you can even see the streets now as if you were walking. You simply click on the “Street View” button, click on one of the blue streets that have this feature, and Bam! You can see a picture of the street as if you were standing on it! I can even see my mom’s new apartment in New York sitting here in California.

I wonder how they implemented it. It seems very unlikely that Google would do a stupid thing like send people in cars with cameras attached to them. Since only some of the streets had this feature on it, I would assume they are satellite images that are combined with some sort of image recognition algorithm. I don’t know though – busier areas seem to have more available streets, so there might be some manual tagging involved. Well, that or maybe they need to pinpoint the satellite at specific locations for a period of time, so they’ve picked the busiest areas first.

Seeing technology like this, I often wonder if they have robberies or car crashes recorded some where. I mean, if it’s an automatic process, and like some # of car crashes happen every day, they’ve got to have accidentally captured one somewhere! It would be pretty interesting to see a bank robbery in progress from google’s street view. That’d just be absolutely amazing!

It seems like it’ll only be a matter of time before Google starts to dominate the GPS market. With the current GPSes being just awful in terms of finding ending addresses (You have no idea how many times my GPS have told me “You have arrived”, only to look around and find myself staring at an open field). Better cell phones + either Google or someone using the Google infrastructure, and we’ll see some great tracking devices within the next 5 years. Yay! I never have to memorize directions again! Oh wait, I already don’t do that…

I do kind of wonder how privacy laws apply here. With Google covering all areas, they’re probably recording some stuff that someone doesn’t want to be recorded. That’s probably a grey area that’ll start getting resolved over the next couple of decades.

In the meantime, I’m just happy that I can measure the distance I’m running with having to get up :) Now, if they’ll just make the satellite monitor my heart rate in real time and track my progress :-D

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3 Responses to “Measuring Stuff With Google Maps”

  1. MarcC on September 3rd, 2007 2:42 pm

    Google really does send people around driving cars mounting cameras.

    MarcC (INTJ)

  2. Warren on September 3rd, 2007 2:49 pm

    Wow, that seems kind of inefficient.

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