Fly around world with photo tours

Net result
Last Updated 07 June 2012, 15:02 IST

Summer vacations are on and there are a good number of people who will not be able to find the time to take their kids on a holiday due to busy work schedules. How about exploring the world sitting in the comfort of your living room?

Photo Tours, a recently introduced feature of Google Maps, helps you do  exactly the same. With Photo Tours you can fulfill your child’s dream to visit global landmarks and learn about them without having to leave the couch.

This feature was introduced by Google only in April this year and is already a rage. It is a breath-taking experience right from the word go and excites you for an actual tour just as you see it on your PC or laptop.

Steve Seitz, software engineer with Google Maps wrote on his blog post recently, “Every year, millions of people pack their bags and head to far-off places to enjoy sites and cultures different from their own.

While there, they snap photos to document their trip and share their excursions online. Yet none of these individual photos capture the experience of actually being immersed in a specific location. With the introduction of photo tours in Google Maps that guide you through a 3D photo scene, we're one step closer to it.”

To produce these photo tours, Google has used advanced computer vision techniques to create a 3D experience from public, user-contributed Picasa and Panaromio photos.

They start by finding clusters of overlapping photos around major landmarks. From the photos, Google’s system derives the 3D shape of each landmark and computes the location and orientation of each photo.

It then selects a path through the best images, and adds 3D transitions to seamlessly guide one from photo to photo as if you were literally flying around the landmark and viewing it from different perspectives.

Photo tours are available for more than 15,000 popular sites around the world, from famous landmarks such as St. Mark’s Basilica in Italy to scenic treasures like Half Dome in Yosemite. They can be initiated from Google Maps in two ways.

First, when you search for a place, such as Trevi Fountain, the results in the left panel will indicate if there is a photo tour available. Click either on the thumbnail image or the link to start the tour.

Alternatively, if you’re browsing the map and click on the label for a particular landmark, the info window that appears will indicate if a photo tour is available.

Every photo is attributed to its contributor, and the more photos people share, the better the tours get. So Steve adds, “If you have great photos of a place you have visited, put them on Picasa or Panoramio and make them public so that they are eligible for inclusion in these photo tours.”

Do note that using photo tours requires Google Maps with WebGL which can be easily downloaded on Google Maps itself. Also, a faster internet connection will be a great help.

So enjoy the summers and free touring!

(Published 07 June 2012, 15:02 IST)

Follow us on