Google Monday launched Street View on Google Maps in New Zealand. Street View lets users view and navigate 360 degree street-level imagery of local cities, towns, regions and remote areas.
The imagery was collected by a team of Googlers who travelled all over New Zealand to document every single public road in the country over the past year. The team drove Holden Astras, which had cameras mounted on a pole on the roof.
By dragging a yellow Street View "pegman" onto any point on a public road shown in Google Maps, the application will bring up an image of the surroundings from a street-level vantage point, letting people check out a restaurant before arriving, arrange meeting points, look up open homes before going there, or just explore, says Google Australia and New Zealand PR manager, Annie Baxter.
As well as viewing images of cities like Auckland and Christchurch, people will be able to take a virtual drive along Scenic Drive to Piha beach west of Auckland, or along the spectacular Crown Range road between Wanaka and Queenstown, says Andrew Foster, product manager for Google Australia and New Zealand.
The new feature can also be used for, for example, checking out a summer holiday home before booking it, finding a shop for a Christmas shopping expedition, or conducting research for a school project, says Foster.
New Zealanders not only use Google Maps for directions, says Foster. Many companies integrate the maps with their websites, and enthusiasts also use it to create personalised maps, such as a map of all the lighthouses in New Zealand, he says.
Google has also taken a pro-active approach to safeguarding privacy, says Baxter. Street View only contains imagery that is already visible from public roads, and it is not real-time, she says. If faces are identifiable they will be blurred, she says. The "Report a concern" button at the bottom of the Street View image in question makes it easy for anyone to request the removal or blurring of images, she says.
"Street View is a new way of giving potential visitors the opportunity to get a sense of what New Zealand offers before they get here," says George Hickton, chief executive of Tourism New Zealand. "We know that many of our visitors are great internet users and this virtual tour should make visitors step off the beaten track and explore even more of New Zealand's remote and beautiful spots."
Tourism New Zealand has selected a gallery of Street View images, available at maps.google.co.nz/streetview, that shows some of New Zealand's most popular tourist attractions and locations to the world.
Mike Elford, national president of Real Estate Institute of New Zealand, says the feature is an "additional tool to help New Zealanders looking to buy or rent property".
Annette Lanigan, chair of the New Zealand Board of Geography Teachers, says that many schools and universities already use Google Earth to help students explore the world. "Street View will allow Kiwi students to study the geography, vegetation and landscape of different parts of the country, from the beautiful beaches of Northland to the Southern Alps -- areas of New Zealand that they might never see otherwise."
More than 100 metropolitan areas in six other countries around the world are presently visible in street view, which first launched in the United States in May 2007.
Street View was launched in Australia earlier this year.