Google goes off-road for latest Street View images

Using a tricycle, Google adds images of parks, landmarks, campuses and hiking trails

Google Street View is going off road.

The company is bolstering its collection of Street View images by getting off the street and taking users into beautiful parks, castles, hiking trails and historic landmarks.

Street View , which has at times raised contentious privacy issues around the globe, is well-known for giving users images of city streets, Times Square, the Golden Gate Bridge and famous buildings. But those images were all taken from cars with cameras mounted on them, so the images were limited to where a vehicle could drive.

No more.

Google announced late Monday that it has begun using a tricycle with a camera mounted on it to get images of less accessible places.

"The Trike team has been pedaling around the world, and today we've added more of these unique places to Street View in Google Maps," wrote Jeremy Pack, a Google software engineer, in a blog post . "With the Trike, we're able to take you inside the grounds of historic locations like the Chateau de Chenonceaux in Civray-de-Touraine, France."

That means users now can view images of college campuses, pedestrian malls, running trails and sports venues.

Pack also noted that users can take 360-degree "tours" of the gardens at the San Diego Art Institute, and the Balboa Park in San Diego.

Google took the wraps off the Street View Trike late in 2009, asking users for suggestions as to what interesting spots they wanted the trike to visit and photograph.

"My day job is working as a mechanical engineer on the Street View team, but I do a lot of mountain biking in my spare time," wrote Dan Ratner, senior mechanical engineer at Google, in an October 2009 blog post. "One day, while exploring some roads less traveled, I realized that I could combine these two pursuits and build a bicycle-based camera system for Street View. The result? The Street View trike."

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed. Her e-mail address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

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