April 24, 2014 in Business

Google Maps offers look back in time

Michael Liedtke Associated Press
 
Associated Press photo

This illustration provided by Google highlights a new Google Maps Street View snapshots feature, which allow users to see what specific neighborhoods and landmarks looked like at different periods during the past seven years that Google Inc. has been taking pictures. This image shows what the under-construction 1 World Trade Center in New York looked like in April 2009, left, and August 2013.
(Full-size photo)

How to access

When a retrospective is available in Street View, a small clock appears in the left corner of the current picture of a location. Clicking on the clock produces a visual portal into different time periods.

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. – Trips down memory lane are now available on Google’s digital maps.

The new twist on time travel debuted Wednesday as part of the Street View feature in Google’s maps, a navigational tool that attracts more than 1 billion visitors each month.

Street View snapshots will now include an option to see what neighborhoods and landmarks looked like at different periods in the last seven years, as Google Inc. has been dispatching camera-toting cars to take street-level pictures for its maps.

Google intends to keep adding pictures to the digital time capsules as its photo-taking cars continue to cruise the same streets gathering updates.

“As time goes by, many of these images are going to become vintage,” predicted Vinay Shet, a Google product manager who oversaw the company’s glimpse into the past. “We want our maps to be comprehensive as we build a digital mirror of the world.”

Like everything else on Google’s map, the time-tripping option is free. Google makes money off its maps from advertising, so the Mountain View, Calif., company is constantly coming up with new attractions to keep people coming back.

Even though the photos only date back to 2007, some of them illustrate dramatic changes. Some photos show how neighborhoods in cities like Tohoku, Japan, looked before and after a 9.0-magnitude earthquake struck in March 2011. Others show the gradual recovery of New Orleans neighborhoods in the years following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. Scrolling over to Washington D.C., will provide a look at the restoration of the historic Howard Theatre in the nation’s capital.

In New York, the Street View map presents a string of photos illustrating the changing skyline as the Freedom Tower at the World Trade Center was built. Even looking at the evolution of Times Square during the past seven years can evoke nostalgic feelings while gazing at a giant billboard advertising a flip-style cellphone in 2007.

The visual retrospectives aren’t available throughout Google’s maps, although Shet says there should be at least one look back in time for just about every neighborhood that can be viewed through the Street View format.

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