Sunday, 26 May 2013

Geo-guesses, and Geo-information in Street View

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GeoGuessr provides a natural change of pace for a Sunday blog, though it's also a great chance to highlight the growing coverage and interesting applications of Google Street View. GeoGuessr is a Google Chrome experiment from Anton Wallén which allows you to test your geographic knowledge against the Street View data by dropping you into five random scenes, and asking you to guess where in the world the scene belongs. It's simple, but absolutely addictive as you can finally put all that random geographic knowledge to good use.

"Where in the world is this?"

Anton uses the Google Maps API to implement the interface, this is a really nicely designed and documented piece of software, and it's fantastic that Google encourages people to start using this, and other mapping products. The use of these products is initially free, and with the official support of Google Earth Outreach, can remain free for non-profit websites. 

In addition to addictive map-guessing games, the current coverage of Google Street View provides an important visual record across more than 400,000 km of roads, which as in the case of the 2010 Maierato landslide in Italy, can provide useful information on the condition of roading infrastructure prior to hazardous events.


As this event was unfolding, the global community was able to both locate the failure, and identify precursory signals (such as cracked and repaired pavements) which may have been associated with the developing slope-wide failure. Although such information would, of course, not have been new to local authorities, the ability to discuss it in an open forum has both scientific and social merit as communities become more aware of environmental signals indicating potential future hazards. An interesting article in New Scientist discusses recent initiatives to crowdsource roading repairs using similar techniques, and although an assessment of potential landslides from Street View images may not be on the horizon, Street View data certainly provides a useful tool for everyday users to begin investigating environmental hazards across ever-increasing regions of the globe.