San Francisco -- Have you ever imagined about visiting the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam or St. Mark's Basilica in Italy without taking the long trip, right from the comfort of your own home? Sewing together pictures to make them worth more than a 1,000 words, Google over the weekend introduced photo tours, offering armchair travelers with more than 15,000 immersive experience of famous landmarks and locations around the world.
Every new feature Google releases for its Maps or Earth services gives you one less reason to shell out a truckload of cash on an expensive trans-global trip and one more reason to vacation from your armchair while enjoying a just-delivered pizza.
Now you can take a tour of thousands of renowned landmarks around the globe, without having to hop on a plane. Recently released photo tours, offers Google Maps users a three-dimensional view of thousands of famous destinations such as St. Mark’s Basilica in Italy, Half Dome in Yosemite, and the Eiffel Tour in Paris.
In a post on the Google Lat Long blog, Google Maps software engineer Steve Seitz noted that while you can view publicly posted photos taken at a location by simply turning on the Maps photo layer, the new photo tour function accumulates many of these pictures to create an almost seamless journey around a place of interest, with the photos morphing from one to another. It is a pleasing effect and far more enjoyable than just clicking on individual pictures.
Interestingly, Google last week added some new capabilities to Google Maps that empowers you to view 3D photo tours of more than 15,000 popular sites around the world. The search giant added tours for popular city landmarks and attractions like New York City's Central Park, the Half Dome in Yosemite National Park, London's Buckingham Palace, and the Trevi Fountain in Rome, among many others.
Google assembles the tours by combining together photos with computer vision technologies. The tours, accessible from the Maps left-hand panel or landmark labels, fly folks around the historic and memorable locations using photos shared publicly on Picasa and Panoramio (a Google-owned community site for photos of places). Photo tours aim to offer viewers the most comprehensive perspective of a particular place, as seen from the masses that have captured and shared their experiences on other Google products.
“We start by finding clusters of overlapping photos around major landmarks. From the photos, our system derives the 3D shape of each landmark and computes the location and orientation of each photo,” Seitz explained in a blog post on the new feature. “Google Maps then selects a path through the best images, and adds 3D transitions to seamlessly guide you from photo to photo as if you are literally flying around the landmark and viewing it from different perspectives.”
If you can not resist the temptation, click here for a few ideas of the kinds of tours that are available. Of course, there is nothing quite like being actually visiting the place yourself, but when lack of time, money or just plain bone-idleness get in the way, a photo tour using Google Maps could be just the ticket.