- Flickr / Sancho McCann
You’re about to see a lot more on Google Street View – and Street View’s about to see a lot more of you.
Google has upgraded the cameras for its mapping service for the first time in eight years to capture sharper images with more detail.
According to a profile in Wired, the new cameras are so sharp they might be able to see a store’s hours from a sign. And they’re feeding all that granular data back to Google’s machine-learning algorithms.
Like their predecessors, the new cameras will sit atop Google-branded cars, capturing information about the world and taking still, HD images on either side.
Better imagery should mean a more useful service. The head of Google’s mapping division, Jen Fitzpatrick, says people no longer search just for their addresses on Google Street View.
“People are coming to us every day with harder and deeper questions,” she told Wired, such as, “What’s a Thai place open now that does delivery to my address?”
Google has already invested huge amounts into artificial intelligence and machine learning, and it’s using that technology to scan Street View data to answer conversational queries.
Eventually, Fitzpatrick wants Google to be able to answer people’s questions that are even more conversational, like what the pink building down the road is.
“These are questions we can only answer if we have richer and deeper information,” she said.
What is less obvious is what else Google can figure out from the new Street View data and how it might use the information.
Wired reports that a team of Stanford researchers – including Google’s chief scientist at its cloud division, Fei-Fei Li – found they could use Street View data to predict income, race, and voting patterns. The team used software that analysed the make, model, and year of cars from Street View photos.
At the time, the team said, “Using the classified motor vehicles in each neighborhood, we infer a wide range of demographic statistics, socioeconomic attributes, and political preferences of its residents.”
What could Google figure out with even more detailed data?
When Wired asked Google whether it had planned anything similar, a representative said the company was always looking for ways to use Street View data to improve its platforms – including beyond maps.