Imagine this: you're in Adelaide city for the first time and you need to arrange to meet your mates in town at a landmark. That's fine, except that they've never been to Adelaide either. So, what do you do? While you could abandon your social plans and become a hopeless recluse, an easier (and altogether less drastic option) would be to ask Google. Their wandering eyes have mapped out Australia for you so you can wander around the country without ever leaving the comfort of your computer chair.
Google Street View has created a virtual street map of Australia so that web users can take self-controlled tours of its cities and towns with a 360 degree, street-level panoramic view. The streets marked in blue on the map have streetview enabled.
Since November last year, the web king has sent its foot soldiers in Google cars to film almost every possible nook and cranny of Australia. Some locations like Uluru have been omitted for reasons of Aboriginal land and cultural rights, (but really, you'd be in trouble if you didn't already have a rough idea of what it looked like.)
The new feature launched in Australia this week, after pilot programs in the US and parts of France and Italy proved to be successful… well, relatively successful. Not surprisingly, a number of scenes in America were caught on tape that weren't really meant for public eyes, and have since been used by privacy activists as a damning tool to have Google Street View banned. However, Google has since learnt from its mistakes, and now blurs out faces, number plates and anything else that could be categorised as an ‘offending scene'.
Regardless of these minor concerns though, we here at the Visa Bureau are congratulating Google – they've done a massive favour for our clients, tourists and migrants to Australia. Visitors to Australia will now be able to check out accommodation before they book, take a pre-peek at tourist attractions, or get their bearings in a city before even stepping foot in the country. Migrants can also use Street View to help decide which suburb to move to in any chosen city, and once they have settled in, friends and family will be able to take a virtual tour around their new neighbourhood. It's brilliant – and absolutely free.
Over the next few months New Zealand will join in on the fun too. It's a pretty exciting development for anyone with travel or migration on the mind – we can now tell our clients that seeing Australia from the UK is not just a visual possibility but a virtual reality, and the best way to get a taste of what they're in for is just a few clicks away!
- Tom Blackett is the Online Editor for the Australian Visa Bureau, and a streetview addict.
©Visa Bureau 2003-2009