Science, Society, Tech

Cataloguing The World

English: A Google Street View Camera Car (2008...

English: A Google Street View Camera Car (2008 Subaru Impreza Five Door) showcased on Google campus in Mountain View, CA, USA. taken by myself [User:Kowloonese] using a Canon digital camera. The picture was taken on Google Campus in Mountain View, CA, USA. Release for Public Domain. Kowloonese (talk) 04:53, 18 November 2010 (UTC) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The world is big, lots of land, rivers, seas.  Our history is vast too.  The internet contains ever growing volumes of information about both.  And videos of kittens.

Search engines help with finding things on the internet of course, and even the history part as more historical documents are digitized and more history is recorded digitally, whether it be art, music, myth and legend or epic tales.

Google though continues to go beyond its core business, using search ad revenues to actually benefit people – providing free services such as YouTube (which it bought in 2006), Google Translate, Google Docs, Google Maps and so on – which are also available from Microsoft and other providers too – as well as the Android operating system which in its Ice Cream Sandwich version (4.0) is maturing into a very nice OS.  Then there’s the suite of desktop apps including Sketchup, Google Earth,  Picasa and more.  The company even looked skyward, producing Sky Map which is now an open source product.

One wonderfully useful thing Google gave us, via their fleets of cars with Johnny Five wannabees strapped to the roofs, is Street View.  It’s so useful to be able to actually see what the place you’re going to looks like, to see your route, turn by turn at street level because using our visual memory is far better that trying to remember an abstract set of directions on a top-down map alone. They even added traffic information to their Maps product recently.

Even this though was not the end as they’ve Street Viewed railway journeys, cycle routes, footpaths and walking trails and now they’re going to be photographing towpaths along rivers and canals in the UK too.  There will no doubt be privacy complaints again and parts of riversides across the country will become strangely hazy when viewed online but it will also give us more strange and funny discoveries in the images as we’ve had from the roadgoing cameras.

Another new Google project revealed this week sees the search behemoth collecting and documenting languages from around the world that are on the verge of extinction via videos, audio recordings and other documentation. The result will be presented via an interactive website.

Some people however won’t like their other announcement – a service that allows companies to track their employees’ movements via their work phones.  Well, two out of three’s not bad.