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Google Businesses The Internet Technology

Riding Shotgun With the Google Street View Beetle 139

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the more-fly-than-beetle dept.
longacre writes "Popular Mechanics takes a ride in an Immersive Media VW Beetle, one of the six cars that drives around America shooting images for Google Maps Street View. Mounted on the roof is the $45,000 Dodeca 2360 video camera, whose 11 lenses record a 360 degree field of view at 30 frames per second, sucking up as many as 200 miles of city scenes per day. The setup takes up the whole back seat and part of the front passenger seat, and is all controlled with an off-the-shelf Logitech game controller. Includes a cool interactive raw video of a drive through Manhattan."
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Riding Shotgun With the Google Street View Beetle

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  • Impressive (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Aetuneo (1130295)
    While this is impressive (especially it being controlled by an off-the-self controller), I would be much more impressed if they rigged up the interior with a lot of HDTVs so that the walls seemed to be transparent to anyone inside.
    • by Shinmizu (725298)
      Off-the-self controllers... I think I've heard of those. They're like Wii controllers, except you don't have to hold them or touch them, right? I'm totally looking forward to having one of those.
    • by sentientbeing (688713) on Monday November 19, 2007 @05:43PM (#21413033)
      if they rigged up the interior with a lot of HDTVs so that the walls seemed to be transparent to anyone inside

      Yes. If only there was some way we could make a solid, imovable, vertical surface transparent so that we could make parts of vehicles from it. We could then drive moving vehicles down the street without crashing and children could peer outside while travelling.

      The techology may even become so cheap so that we could use it housing so theat we dont have to live in darkness in our homes. We good look outside through the transparent 'walls' and see the sun.

      One day technology will find a way.
    • Can someone explain why they need a gamepad controller? Don't they just drive down a road filming everything? Record, stop, maybe some settings based on available light.
      • by mgblst (80109)
        Gets a bit boring driving around town after a while. Unless there are some cyclists to knock down. It seems sensible to have a game of crazy taxi while you are driving around, to keep you more alert, so you are less likely to get into an accident.
  • where sandwiched in between kneejerk, paranoid ranting articles about encroaching invasions on your privacy, are fawning articles about google doing the SAME DAMN THING

    pure blindness and hypocrisy at work on slashdot
    • by Bryansix (761547) on Monday November 19, 2007 @04:47PM (#21412327) Homepage
      What in the wide world of sports are you talking about? Did you know that the Constitution protects the right for anybody to record anything that happens in public?
      • This is basically the Aspen Movie Map [naimark.net] done bigger and better. More info Here. [rebeccaallen.com]

        For those of you too lazy to follow the links, the Aspen Movie Map was a project done in 1978-81 by the MIT Architecture Machine Group (precursor to the Media Lab) to create an interactive map of the town of Aspen Colorado. Similar to Google, they mounted sideways facing cameras on a car, drove around the town collecting "street-view" imagery and loaded it all into an interactive map. They built an interactive videodisk

        • Nice, but that Aspen project wasn't the first time this sort of thing has been done. Municipalities, insurance companies, and real estate firms have been doing this for decades. Since at least the 60's in some places. Probably longer.

          For years you've been able to look at street-level pictures of every property in Cook County, Illinois (Chicago) on the internet through the Assessor's web site.

          Just because Google's doing it, people pretend like this is something new.
          • by elwinc (663074)
            What google gives you that the Cook County Assor's Database doesn't is the "fly through" visualization and the interface to control it. The Aspen Movie Map had a cruder version; it was a "drive through" visualization and interface; i.e. your point of view was limited to the paths on the street grid. Lemme know when Cook County gets their 3D fly-through visualization working.
    • by morgan_greywolf (835522) on Monday November 19, 2007 @04:52PM (#21412385) Homepage Journal
      I must disagree with yours and everyone else's statements that this is an invasion of privacy. What Google records on the public streets is A) protected by the first amendment and B) not a privacy issue because if something is viewable from a public street, then there is no reasonable expectation of privacy.
      • were sitting on a streetcorner, photographing everyone walking by, the outcry here on slashdot would be huge

        i don't really care if you think the fbi would be right doing that, i don't really care if you think the fbi would be wrong doing that

        what i care about is thinking the fbi is right/ wrong to do that, and thinking elsewise of google

        a massive company like that? who knows practically what everyone in the country is searching for?

        i'm not being paranoid, i'm illustrating the kind of distrust that flows to
        • were sitting on a streetcorner, photographing everyone walking by, the outcry here on slashdot would be huge

          Why?

          don't really care if you think the fbi would be right doing that, i don't really care if you think the fbi would be wrong doing that

          what i care about is thinking the fbi is right/ wrong to do that, and thinking elsewise of google

          Same logic: if the FBI were doing it, it would be fine. There's no reasonable expectation of privacy of anything that can be viewed from a public street. Besides, the FBI, the ATF, and yes, your local and state police departments do this every day. It's called a stakeout. And it's been ruled legal by the courts over and over.

          • and i don't have a problem with google doing it either

            i have a problem with the usual slashbot who would cry high holy terror if the fbi did it, and swoon if google did it
          • There's no reasonable expectation of privacy of anything that can be viewed from a public street.

            My experience in court (as a witness, only) in the US state of Virginia was that the "reasonable" in this statement refers to the legal concept of the "reasonable man". It was a jury trial so the judge explained rather precisely what the law said was a "reasonable expectation of privacy" in Virginia.

            The fictious Reasonable Man does not have access to machines that would allow him to see through walls, nor does he have any reasonable expectation that someone would want to look through his walls for harmles

        • If the FBI were sitting on a streetcorner, photographing everyone walking by, the outcry here on slashdot would be huge

          Not to nitpick, but doesn't the FBI (and several other governmental offices) as well as private companies do this already? Think about any major bank branch, post office, or office buildings and I guarantee there are PTZ cameras all over the place.

          Distrust Google if you want to, or fume at the 'fanboyism' that seems to occur around them from time to time. I'm not saying that Google is completely free from any wrongdoing, just that I don't think the vast majority of people here on Slashdot think

          • i agree with you, that the fbi or google is ok to take pictures on a street corner

            but the usual slashbot would cry high holy terror if the fbi were doing it, and swoon if google would do it

            i don't care if google or the fbi take your pictures on a streetcorner. i care that the difference in reactions on slashdot is so retarded. so little trust here, so much trust there

        • were sitting on a streetcorner, photographing everyone walking by, the outcry here on slashdot would be huge
          And that'd be because it was the government doing it. There's nothing whatsoever wrong with a private company doing it, as long as it's not in order to supply their footage to the government. Citizens, and their businesses, have the right to do lots of things the government doesn't, buddy.
      • Well, when I am standing at the bus stop waiting for a bus, I reasonably expect some 30 or 40 people currently I can see could see me. I reasonably expect a million people are not watching me and what happened there would not come back to haunt me 10 years from now.

        So is the "reasonable expectation of privacy" a digital thing? All or nothing? People behave differently when three, thirty, three hundred or three million people are watching them.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          , I reasonably expect some 30 or 40 people currently I can see could see me. I reasonably expect a million people are not watching me and what happened there would not come back to haunt me 10 years from now.

          You do? How do you know CNN isn't conducting a 'hidden camera' investigation? Do you think news crews get releases from everyone that happens to appear in a camera shot that was filmed on a public street?

          If 30 or 40 or 300 or 3000 people driving by that day can see you, then you have to expect that everyone can.

        • by enjahova (812395) on Monday November 19, 2007 @05:18PM (#21412703) Homepage
          you are in public, about to take public transportation. People in public places may have access to technology that can broadcast to millions of people. The current state of technology changes the definition of reasonable.
          There are no laws to prevent this, in fact, in many places the laws are CAUSING this (London, Chicago). Unfortunately for you, your expectations are no longer reasonable.
        • by ashitaka (27544)
          I have a picture taken a long time ago reprinted from a newspaper. There is a parade with the town's senior dignitaries at the front and a marching band behind.

          On the far side of the street a little 7 year-old boy in traditional British school uniform with shorts leans forward shyly to see better.

          That little boy is my 82-year-old father.

          He had no expectation of privacy as he watched that parade 75 years ago and the picture of the parade is no different than the pictures Google is taking now.

          If I knew Googl
    • by grcumb (781340)

      where sandwiched in between kneejerk, paranoid ranting articles about encroaching invasions on your privacy, are fawning articles about google doing the SAME DAMN THING

      pure blindness and hypocrisy at work on slashdot

      Diversity of opinion? NO! That way lies madness!!

      EXTERMINATE! EXTERMINATE!

      Seriously - it did occur to you that these points of view might be held by different individuals. Didn't it?

      • but if they are logically inconsistent and hypocritical, don't be surprised if you get called out on it
        • And, yet again, you are making the mistake of treating all of /. as if we're hooked up to one mind. That's the point the GP was making, there are a lot of people here with a lot of different (and differing) opinions.
          • now where did i say slashbots=all of slashdot's user base?

            i'm referring to the usual kneejerk twit

            such a person doesn't exist?

            you feel a need to defend such a person, or group yourself with them?
            • by Anonymous Coward
              Please, find a couple examples.

              Better yet, find enough examples of users here that would do that so it can be considered the "usual" reaction. We'll make it easy, say, 15% of Slashdot's users? (On the grounds that 15% of the users posting similar comments is enough to seem like a very popular opinion.) Please list usernames.

              Thanks.
      • We obviously need two slashdots one left and one right. Face it, we're all extremists here.
    • by Applekid (993327)
      Thing is, when it's done by a company, ideally, they ought to be responsible for it.

      * Google is using their own money for this venture, not taking it from the taxpayer.
      * Google is upfront with what this is for. Government might install cameras for "safety" but once the infrastructure is in place there's all sorts of new things they can push by.
      * It's not permanent. Just a car driving. It's not surveiling street corners.
      * Google doesn't have the government database cross-references. The camera sees a car dri
      • by SnoopJeDi (859765)

        Google doesn't have the government database cross-references. The camera sees a car driving along the same road: they have no ability to figure out who's car it is and what it's doing there.


        Have you tried the "I'm Feeling Lucky" button?!
        • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

          by Anonymous Coward
          Have you tried the "I'm Feeling Lucky" button?!

          Wait until Google has enough data gathered on everyone.

          Then it'll become the...

          "Are you feeling lucky, punk?" button.
        • I have! The only thing it got me was a visit from the vice squad and sexual harassment suit.
      • "i distrust government, but i wholeheartedly trust multinational corporations, even one who traffics in information, specifically my personal information, and has publicly stated it wants to track people's every query"

        you'll excuse me, but your distrust of government and trust of google is fucking hypocritical and stupid
        • by Applekid (993327)
          Google can't force me to pay tribute, can't incarcerate me, can't draft me into combat, can't take my children away, can't deny my rights in any way.

          It's not hypocritical if they're, oh I don't know, two completely unrelated and dissimilar entities.

          Or perhaps I shouldn't trust my mother because I can't trust the guy who mugged me?
          • small hint: if the government were to do any of those things, they'd probably get google's cooperation in recovering info on you

            is your hypocrisy and misplaced trust and logical incoherence dawning on you yet?
            • by Applekid (993327)
              Probably get Google's cooperation? From what base case are you inferring that "probably" from? It's not probable from where I stand. [arstechnica.com]

              Trust is a lucid thing. Once they start doing bad things by me I will withdraw my trust. Right now I have no problem with them funding the public view from the road, and there simply isn't a slippery slope argument that can be made.

              Pro Tip: you can better prove that you're right with evidence instead of calling people morons. Perhaps THAT was what you meant with "Welcome to Sla
  • by $1uck (710826) on Monday November 19, 2007 @04:45PM (#21412279)
    If it didn't require any user control (for the cameras at least). I mean why isn't the recording speed tied to the speed of the car? (or is it?) what need do you have to manipulate the cameras manually. Instead if the car is stuck in traffic, just stop recording. If the car is moving faster, increase the fps.

    What purpose does the game controller have? Are the drivers allowed to track hotties? or is it for focusing in on billboards for corporate sponsors? Are they offering street view adwords or something?
    • by Acid-Duck (228035)
      There is already a 360 view throughout the video, therefore it would seem the joystick isn't used to control the vertical axis.
  • by NaCh0 (6124)
    Theres nothing like slapping a dozen fisheye lenses to a moving vehicle and building a movie out of it. My city just got google street view enabled. I was wondering how they got exact pics of where I was on the map. Now that I see it runs at 30 frames/sec I know how they captured so much data!
  • by MobyDisk (75490) on Monday November 19, 2007 @04:47PM (#21412329) Homepage
    This reminds me of when Data talks about how he records everything that he sees, and what his maximum storage capacity is. I always wondered "What compression algorithms does he use for all that? At what frame rate does he record it?" I think Google will create Data before they create Skynet. After all, they've already taken the first step [google.com]
    • One wouldn't really need much of a compression algorithm to store the string "I have no emotions, because I am an android. That makes me very sad."
  • by RandoX (828285) on Monday November 19, 2007 @04:48PM (#21412331)
    Crank up the halon system, this ought to be good.
  • by Zymergy (803632) * on Monday November 19, 2007 @04:56PM (#21412453)
    Imagine future versions (with much lower prices) of the "Dodeca 2360" camera used as Police Dash-Cams (but on top of the car).
    With the increased Law-Enforcement use of WiFi/Wireless-Data access and the necessitation of Computer capabilities in modern Police Vehicles, this device would make a nice streaming Police roof-cam.
    (The quality looks good enough that "Cops" or other 'reality' police shows might just fund the costs for the cameras too.)
  • Now i can do every thing on the internet.
    No longer do i need to get up and go out side. I can just surf to it via google.com!

    l33t!
  • by Bryansix (761547) on Monday November 19, 2007 @04:58PM (#21412471) Homepage
    Do they correct the Barrel distortion afterwards? If not, they should. Everything to the side of the car looks stretched and skewed.
    • by 4D6963 (933028)

      Everything to the side of the car looks stretched and skewed.

      Someone correct me if I'm wrong but it's not the side that's distorted, it's the lower part of the image, just like the projection of a map. I think for it to look right they should project their "map" onto a sphere.

  • Only one thing bugs me about this... the quality sucks..
  • Growing up in a rural area, I was always kinda dejected when the satellite images I'd look up were old and relatively low resolution compared to what was commonly available for more urbanized centers. Given the price tag for what Google is doing here (the article says between $125-$700), I understand why... there's less market for it, so there's less of a return on cost.

    Still, the possibility that someday soon users will be able to submit their own images of various locations suggests that suburban
  • Wow, wouldn't it be cool to use this to make a DVD with angle selection? Or, even better, take the cameras off, and put them in a circle around a room, and film all those ancient martial arts masters from every angle. Oh, to have Bruce Lee, or Chang Man Ching, or TT Liang doing the sword form (in his prime, of course; not when he was 100 years old).
    • Or, even better, take the cameras off, and put them in a circle around a room, and film all those ancient martial arts masters from every angle.

      They kinda did that already. It was called "The Matrix".
  • I'd love to try this out with video from a formula1, nascar or superbike race - it'd be *really* amazing if it could be done live - you could actually simulate being in the driving seat live during a race!

    I can predict that if the tech becomes cheap enough, it will lead to a slew of re-runs of the famous Rendezvoos video (cross-Paris maniac run in a Ferrari) or Gumball rally.

    • by achenaar (934663)
      Plus the drag from the camera would certainly ensure you had a great view of last place ;)

      Driver: "Why is there a bloody great wind break on my car?"
      Manager: "We're gonna video everything you do so we can sell it to the cable subscriber schmos."
      Driver: "Can't you at least stick an aerofoil on it!?!?"
      Manager: "If it's good enough for Google, it's good enough for you. Now race!"
      Driver: "Bah."

      *yawn*
      Sorry, I'm tired.
  • Some guy in lab at Google farts! Read it on the front page of Slashdot!
  • Privacy? (Score:3, Funny)

    by niceone (992278) * on Monday November 19, 2007 @05:11PM (#21412629) Journal
    I've heard rumours these cars are handing out cookies so Google can track everybody!
  • I and a friend separately saw a couple of vehicles driving around the north area of a major Southwestern US city last month. This was no Google van or Google Beetle, it was just some rinky-dink car with a Google magnetic sign on the sides, and presumably a camera assembly set up on a pole about 3 foot from the car roof. It literally looked like Google ran an ad for any joker to bolt a camera to their car and drive around. My friend and I wondered what could be so exciting about the northern suburban area of
    • Anyway, it got me thinking that pretty much anyone really could put a Google sign or their car to presumably drive someplace they shouldn't
      Why whould Google be able to drive anywhere where I can't?
  • Dutch Company Cyclomedia recently finished a full overview of the Netherlands. You can see 360 degrees of every 20 metres or so. They even have tools [cyclomedia.nl] that help you measure the sizes of things on the street and on houses. It's popular with municipalities and real estate agent. It's also featured at the major real estate site Funda.nl [funda.nl] I hope it links through, but you can see a street view [funda.nl] in front of the working palace of the Queen here [funda.nl].
  • Is there a way to find out where and when the Googlemobile will be driving past my house so that I can be standing outside dressed as a pirate? They have a schedule, it exists somewhere. How can I find it?
    • Is there a way to find out where and when the Googlemobile will be driving past my house so that I can be standing outside dressed as a pirate?

      Next Monday, 3-4 PM for your neighborhood.

  • Especially after the Public/Private debate, I probably shouldn't say this...
    But I want one!
    In Blue! No Yellow! No, sorry, Blue.
  • Dodeca? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by CompMD (522020) on Monday November 19, 2007 @06:12PM (#21413367)
    If the camera is called Dodeca, why does it only have 11 lenses?
    • Re:Dodeca? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Jivecat (836356) on Monday November 19, 2007 @06:44PM (#21413753) Homepage
      Because the twelfth face of the dodecahedron is occupied by the mount.
      • by CompMD (522020)
        Ah. That would be my cue to get another cup of coffee.
      • by emurphy42 (631808)
        They could have mounted it at a vertex. The slight increase in imaging probably wouldn't be worth the extra height and structural support you'd need, but at least you'd be able to say "this one goes to 12!"
    • by autophile (640621)

      Because nobody is interested in the view pointing towards the roof of the car?

      :)

      --Rob

    • by kinko (82040)
      my guess is the attachment has 12 faces - 1 (the one facing downwards) is attached to the pole :)
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Cajun Hell (725246)
      You, sir, have uncovered the vital clue revealing the presence of the secret 12th lens! How careless of Google to let this subtlety slip. They were arrogant to believe that no one would notice, but that vice is often the downfall of the mighty. They think themselves the only keen intellects, but now they've met their match in CompMD.
  • Am I the only one who thought the name of the camera a little misleading? It has 11 cameras so it should be called the Hendeca 2360. If it had 12 then the Dodeca appellation would be accurate.
  • Thousands of little solar powered robot blimps. When they come into cell phone range, upload instructions like "go and explore these co-ordinates" and simply download their info when they come into cell tower range.

     
    • by argent (18001)
      Fast times at Fairmont High, eh? You think Google's going to digitize a library with a shredder next?
  • by Jivecat (836356)
    Did they have to make it look like the floating torture droid from Star Wars?
  • So far we've only seen 2d data, but from the look of the video, there's probably enough parallax information that you could perform 3d reconstruction of the scene. One really good aspect of this is that you could automatically remove objects such as people from the result.
  • That's not a google beetle, that's A TRANSFORMER!!!
  • Wait, I thought google had a huge fleet of Chevy Cobalts.

    Those pictures show a LOT more than 6 cars.

    http://www.gpsmagazine.com/2007/07/googles_secret_cameracar_armad.php [gpsmagazine.com]
  • Watching the raw video, there appears to be someone that keeps honking. Was this the google car? or was this someone else that was following them? Or maybe it was just a friendly hello.
  • I love the way the article refers to the eleven cameras as "nearly a dozen". Using that system, there are nearly 61 minutes in a hour, 2 + 2 is nearly 5, and I nearly ate one gnome for breakfast this morning.

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