Here’s a piece I wrote to coincide with Google’s launch of Street View in Thailand: Google charts a careful course through Asia’s maps
Google rushed out its panoramic Street View maps in Thailand on Friday as part of the country’s efforts to show tourist hot spots have recovered from last year’s floods.
But it also marked something of a change of fortunes for Google itself, which has weathered several storms in Asia over its mapping products.
Google rolled out 360-degree images of the streets of Bangkok, the resort island of Phuket and the northern city of Chiang Mai. Street View allows users to click through a seamless view of streets via the company’s Google Maps website.
Google plans to use a tricycle-mounted camera to photograph places that can’t be reached by car, such as parks and monuments. The Tourism Authority of Thailand will launch a poll to choose which sites to photograph first.
“We really want to show that Thailand isn’t still underwater,” said David Marx, Google’s Tokyo-based communications manager. “People should see Thailand for what it is.”
Pongrit Abhijatapong, marketing information technology officer at the Tourism Authority of Thailand, said it was less about showing that Thailand was back to normal.
“Rather, we hope tourists can see with their own eyes what Thailand is like. Street View will help their decision-making process in a positive way in regards to visiting Thailand.”
Google has not always been able to count on such enthusiasm elsewhere in Asia, illustrating the challenges the company has faced besides high-profile spats with China over privacy and India over removing offensive content.
Read the rest at Reuters.com.
Here are some links and bits and pieces I didn’t have room for:
Measures (Guidance) for Google, Inc. concerning Protection of “Secrecy of Communications”) – Japan’s Nov 11 2011 instructions to Google over privacy
Stefan Geens has done a great job charting the various sandbanks and undersea obstructions Google has encountered, particularly in Asia. His blog is well worth a read: Ogle Earth | Notes on the political and scientific impact of digital maps and geospatial imagery
I didn’t have enough space to go into detail about OpenStreetMap‘s challenge to Google, particularly in Asia. But in those parts of the region I know, it’s at least a match for Google, in places like Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore and Afghanistan. Their annual conference, State of the Map, will be held for the first time in Asia this year, in Tokyo on September 6.
My thanks to Daniel Kastl for explaining OSM and Japan to me. I understand that Yahoo Japan and OSM are about to announce some sort of cooperation in the next few days.
One thing I didn’t point out in the story is that Google doesn’t always get there first when it comes to street-level panoramic mapping. In Singapore, for example, gothere.sg was ahead of them, both in mapping and 360-degree views, and remains in some ways better than Google Maps. Hong Kong-based MapJack has offered street-level maps of Thailand’s Phuket. Chiangmai and several other resorts, though not Bangkok, since 2008.
However good your directions may be, there’s nothing like a map to show people where you are. But it’s fiddly, and usually they’ve already left home by the time they realise they don’t actually know where you live.
Here’s a great and simple way to include a map of your location with your directions and address, in the form of a simple link which can be emailed, sent by instant message or SMS. The resulting page looks good online and in a phone browser.
Go to Schmap.me and type in the name you want to have as your address — www.schmap.me/loosewire, for example:
If it’s available the box will turn green.
Enter the address on the next page and the Google Map on the left of the address will immediately jump to that location:
There’s a room for notes, where you can include driving directions:
(There are more fields available if you want them.)
The resulting page will look like this:
It also looks good on a phone:
Include the link at the bottom of your email signatures or in your contact address book. It’s easy enough to then send it to friends by email, SMS or instant message.
Update: Be wary of what you put up there: the information is not visible to search engines, but the page could be stumbled upon(since there’s no password). So, in the words of the company, best not use it for sensitive information.
Next up: cities you can drive through, and not from above, or fake worlds where everyone has big chests. Real cities, from all angles. It’s called EveryScape.
The company calls it “the world’s first interactive eye-level search that offers Web users a totally immersive world on the Internet.” A “virtual experience of all metropolitan, suburban and rural areas in which visitors can share their stories and opinions about real-life daily experiences against a photo-realistic backdrop ranging from streets and cities, communities, restaurants, schools, real estate and the like.” Yes, I’m not crazy about the lingo, but the idea is a cool one: Just try the preview of San Francisco’s Union Square.
Using a Flash-enabled browser you move through the terrain and ground level (in the middle of the street), and then can tilt your view through all angles. You can click on certain markers for more information, or enter certain buildings. You “window shop storefronts as well as tour the inside of those stores, see their offerings, and access published reviews and other information.” You can add content such as “relevant links, personal reviews, rankings” and things like “a “For Rent” sign and an apartment tour.”
Putting the stuff together doesn’t sound as hard as you would expect. EveryScape’s HyperMedia Technology Platform means anyone with an SLR camera can take pictures and upload them; EveryScape hopes to tap “into local communities and users to assist in building out a visual library of content that will cover the entire world.” A sort of Google Earth at ground level.
Great idea, though of course you can imagine there’ll be a lot of commercial elements to all this. It’s hard to imagine ordinary Joes allowed to plaster streets with their virtual graffiti or anything else that gets in the way of advertising opportunities. The only other concern I have off the top of my head is that Google Earth made some of us wonder whether, after seeing every corner of the globe from a bird’s wing, we’d feel the same urge to travel. Now, after wandering the virtual streets of San Francisco, would we lose our wanderlust?
EveryScape plans to launch 10 U.S. metropolitan areas this year.