I remember when MapQuest was the place to go to print directions to get from point A to point B. The maps were rudimentary at best. Then Google Maps came along and opened my eyes to our world, no longer a map, but a living, breathing series of satellite and camera images, seamlessly stitched together and wrapped around the globe. Mapping started to shift from an exercise in measurement and direction and took on the role of geo-located photo journalism. Google Streetview became a digital record of every alleged car burglary, killer seagull, and crazy stuffed animal house that existed as the Google car drove by. Who knew our world could be so interesting?
Amidst a growing storm of privacy concerns with mapping, Bing has begun to take it to the next level. With the help of Blaise Agüera y Arcas (co-founder of Photosynth), Microsoft has augmented Bing Maps to include a photo mosaic of crowd-sourced geo-located imagery which mimics the features and functionalities of Photosynth. Bing is mining images from Flickr and placing them together where they belong on earth in an effort to provide crowd-sourced windows into time and space. Why rely on one image snapped by a camera-car when you can flip through more recent (or relevant or artistic) imagery? Millions of people are carrying cameras capable of supporting this effort, which might become personally advantageous if it came to selling one’s house, promoting one’s pizza joint, etc.
Bing is taking it one step further by going indoors (Street Side) with backpack cameras, essentially mapping the spaces inside the spaces around the world. What’s more, they have brought the power of real-time streaming over 4G wireless to Bing Maps, allowing geo-casted video streams to be overlaid on the otherwise still images of our world. Imagine crowd-sourcing hundreds of smartphone users at an event or a concert to capture video in real time, which can then be consumed by the rest of the world online, from hundreds of different angles simultaneously.
Crazy? Believe it.