Travel in time on new Google maps

Trips down memory lane are now available on Google’s digital maps.

The new twist on time travel is debuting Wednesday as part of the “Street View” feature in Google’s maps, a navigational tool that attracts more than 1 billion visitors each month.

Street View snapshots will now include an option to see what neighborhoods and landmarks looked like at different periods in the last seven years, as Google Inc. has been dispatching camera-toting cars to take street-level pictures for its maps.

Google Inc. intends to keep adding pictures to the digital time capsules as its photo-taking cars continue to cruise the same streets gathering updates.

“As time goes by, many of these images are going to become vintage,” predicted Vinay Shet, a Google product manager who oversaw the company’s glimpse into the past. “We want our maps to be comprehensive as we build a digital mirror of the world.”

Like everything else on Google’s map, the time-tripping option is free. Google makes money off its maps from advertising, so the Mountain View, Calif., company is constantly coming up with new attractions to keep people coming back.

Even though the photos only date back to 2007, some of them illustrate dramatic changes. Some photos show how neighborhoods in cities like Tohoku, Japan looked before and after a 9.0-magnitude earthquake struck in March 2011. Others show the gradual recovery of New Orleans neighborhoods in the years after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. Scrolling over to Washington D.C. will provide a look at the restoration of the historic Howard Theatre in the nation’s capital.

In New York, the Street View map presents a string of photos illustrating the changing skyline as the Freedom Tower at the World Trade Center was built. Even looking at the evolution of Times Square during the past seven years can evoke nostalgic feelings while gazing at a giant billboard advertising a flip-style cellphone in 2007.

The visual retrospectives aren’t available throughout Google’s maps, although Shet says there should be at least one look back in time for just about every neighborhood that can be viewed through the Street View format.

Google’s new feature is displaying more photos of major city centers over time than suburban streets because the company’s camera-bearing cars return to densely populated areas more frequently.

Adding the photos from the past will roughly double the total imagery in Street View once the rollout is completed in the next two days. Google declined to say how many pictures are already in Street View, which spans 55 countries. The look-back feature will be available in all but three of those countries: Germany and Switzerland, where government regulations restrict Google’s use of the past images, and South Africa, where technical problems have slowed the feature’s rollout.

When a retrospective is available in Street View, a small clock appears in the left corner of the current picture of a location. Clicking on the clock produces a visual portal into different time periods.

The trips can be emotional. For instance, Street View’s scenes often include people who happened to be in the frame when Google’s cars took the picture. Over time, some of these people will die and Google expects those pictures will have special meaning for survivors and other descendants.

Some Street View pictures posted through the years have also upset people who were captured in activities or visiting places that they wanted to keep private. Google now blurs the images of people who contact the company asking to be shielded from Street View. Masking will be available on the older photos too, Shet said, even if it’s just because a person didn’t like the way he or she looked a few years ago.

Talk to us

More in Local News

A Sound Transit train arrives at Westlake Station in downtown Seattle. (Sue Misao / Herald file) May 2019
Should light rail skip Paine Field and Boeing? We asked, you answered

More than 300 Herald readers responded to an online poll. Here are the results.

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Lake Stevens in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Highway 9 work could disrupt travel through Lake Stevens

Construction is set for roundabouts on South Lake Stevens Road and one at North Davies Road and Vernon Road.

Lynnwood City Council members, from left: Jim Smith, Shirley Sutton, Shannon Sessions, Josh Binda, George Hurst, Julieta Altamirano-Crosby, and Patrick Decker. (City of Lynnwood)
No penalty for Lynnwood council member’s ‘underinformed’ views on racism

The City Council didn’t censure Jim Smith after a report found he discriminated against a Black city employee.

All ears: Mukilteo couple provides surgery for kids born without ears

Dr. Prabhat and Trish Bhama are part of a HUGS volunteer team providing treatment for microtia in Guatemala.

Conceptual rendering for a future section of Smokey Point Boulevard between 174th Place NE and 200th Street NE. (City of Arlington)
Plan seeks to transform Smokey Point Blvd. into ‘neighborhood corridor’

City officials hope roundabouts, sidewalks and more will turn 2 miles of busy road into a neighborhood street.

Genghin Carroll, 8, walks up and high fives his mom Andria Carroll after riding the ferry over to meet her for a dental appointment on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022 in Mukilteo, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Welcome aboard, kids! Ferry rides are free for those 18 and under

The move to let children ride ferries for free is the latest result of Move Ahead Washington legislation.

Judge Paul Thompson, left, with Strom Peterson and his wife Maria Montalvo after being is sworn in Wednesday afternoon at the Snohomish County Administration Building in Everett, Washington on September 29, 2022.  (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
State Rep. Peterson appointed to Snohomish County Council

Carin Chase had by far the most supporters present Thursday, but it was Strom Peterson who won the council’s unanimous vote.

Students make their way after school at Edmonds-Woodway High School on March 12, 2020. All public and private schools in Snohomish, King and Pierce counties must close for six weeks. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Police: Student, 15, arrested with loaded gun at Edmonds high school

Around 1 p.m., students reported a classmate with a gun at Edmonds-Woodway High School.

A woman was injured in an attack Sunday at Clark Park in Everett. (Everett Police Department)
Police: Purse snatching in Everett park led to stabbing

A Snohomish woman, 36, was arrested for investigation of first-degree assault and first-degree robbery.

Most Read