Google takes another gander at Toronto’s streets
Published on Thursday July 19, 2012
Niamh Scallan Staff Reporter
Mow your lawns, tidy your front porches and flash a smile, Toronto — Google Street View is back in town.
For the first time since Toronto landed on the Street View map in 2009, Google has begun a full-scale effort to update its database and recapture the GTA’s ever-changing streetscapes, according to spokesman Adam Brindle.
The online street mapping tool, which stitches together panoramic street-level images from 360-degree cameras mounted atop Google vehicles, was launched in a handful of U.S. cities in 2007 and has since spread to all seven continents.
Through the online portal, users can meander down tree-lined streets and explore neighbourhoods around the globe, seeing essentially everything (and everyone) captured at street level the moment the camera-equipped Google vehicle drove by.
Now, it’s Toronto’s turn for a virtual facelift.
The Street View team has collected data from the GTA in recent years, including last year, when a camera-equipped Google tricycle captured hard-to-reach areas such as trails and university campuses, but Brindle said the project underway this summer “is the first comprehensive refresh of (Toronto’s) imagery.”
For the next several weeks, a fleet of Google Street View vehicles equipped with 360-degree panoramic cameras will prowl the city’s streets to collect fresh street-level streetscape images to update the online mapping tool.
To ease privacy concerns, Brindle said Google uses “face-blurring technology” to smudge the faces of passersby and vehicle licence plates.
But that hasn’t prevented awkward, bizarre and sometimes even indecent behaviour from being frozen in time on Street View — from passersby making rude gestures at Google cameras, to men dressed as Vikings caught mid-battle in a Pittsburgh park to a flame-engulfed van captured in a Toronto driveway.
With Google Street View cameras turned toward Toronto’s streets, the Star asked some city-goers whether they’d be putting their best face forward in the next few weeks.
Toronto Life employee Cat Yelizarov, 25, said she would probably go the extra mile if she knew the Google car would pass by.
“I know everyone would see it, so maybe I’d put on a flowy skirt and pose … make sure I look at the camera,” said Yelizarov. “I would want it to capture my good moment. I’d want people to remember me as that girl.”
Frankie Benson, 70, said he usually keeps his Brampton home tidy, but would likely touch up the front yard for the Google team. Image is important, he said, so why not prepare for the camera? “I want to show my best side so I’d probably smarten it up.”
But purists among the crowd argued otherwise.
“I don’t think you should change anything. It’s an expression of yourself, of reality,” said Durham resident Allan Stiver, 47.
Alex Young, 24, of Hamilton agreed and said he wouldn’t change a thing for the camera. “You should just be yourself,” he said.
Will you be on your best behaviour?