Google is taking its cameras indoors in an effort to map international transit hubs, starting with 16 airports and more than 50 train and subway stations.
The new panoramic images are part of the company's Street View feature within Google Maps and Google Earth. It's not the average update though, because you'd be hard-pressed to find actual streets. In its announcement, Google described the expansion as the company's first efforts to map global transit locations.
Apparently Google wants people to use its services not just to see their destination -- or gaze in longing at places deemed out of reach -- but also to help them get there.
The Street View update might come in handy for travelers who need help finding their way around an airport, the company suggested. "Don't let travel logistics get you down this holiday season," Google said.
A handful of the new images are of transportation hubs in the U.S., though more are scattered throughout Europe and Asia. There are several airports in Spain and at least half a dozen train stations throughout Italy, judging by an interactive map of the new locations, and also a range of hubs in the U.K. and Japan. Users can see panoramic images of the Tokyo International Airport, Eindhoven Airport in the Netherlands -- oddly, that's the only transport hub in the country Google mapped for this project, passing on more widely used Schiphol -- the Madrid-Barajas Airport and Waterloo Station in London.
The Internet company also got hyper-local with the project: The inside of some Emirates planes at the Dubai Airport were also photographed.
Google may only be looking at transit hubs, but moving more of its Street View images indoors could give the company a stronger foothold in an emerging industry. Indoor mapping is considered the holy grail of location technologies right now. Apple recently purchased indoor mapping startup WiFiSlam to make progress there, and Nokia is also looking indoors with its Here business unit.
In retail specifically, there is a burgeoning industry of hardware makers, data analysis companies and software developers trying to map stores, to help consumers shop and serve hyper-targeted promotional deals.