Google executives claim this is your chance to time travel Back-to-the-Future style via a new maps function.
“If you’ve ever dreamt of being a time traveler like Doc Brown, now’s your chance. Starting today, you can travel to the past to see how a place has changed over the years,” Vinay Shet, Google Street View Product Manager, posted.
The Internet giant claims they’ve built “a digital time capsule of the world,” by gathering historical imagery from past Street View collections.
The photos let you see into the past a whopping… seven years. That isn’t enough time to interfere with your parents love life or save the clock tower, but is enough time to watch the progression of recent architectural feats:
“Now with Street View, you can see a landmark’s growth from the ground up, like the Freedom Tower in New York City or the 2014 World Cup Stadium in Fortaleza, Brazil. This new feature can also serve as a digital timeline of recent history … (or) you can even experience different seasons and see what it would be like to cruise Italian roadways in both summer and winter.”
The maps function can serve as an easy-access educational tool, especially with shots like these from a street corner in Onagawa, Japan — the devastation caused by a massive earthquake and tsunami in 2011 easy to spot. The only remnants from two-story brick and mortar buildings shown in July 2008 are piles of dust and rubble in the images after the storm.
“If you see a clock icon in the upper left-hand portion of a Street View image, click on it and move the slider through time and select a thumbnail to see that same place in previous years or seasons,” Shet said. “When possible, Street Views presents a slider bar so viewers can scroll through all the photos Google has taken of a particular location since it started sending out (crews).”
Aside from the oft-discussed privacy violation issues the Google images create, at least this function seems to be a handy way to organize the images they’ve taken without permission. Still, they might not want to tease us with “Back to the Future” references until they’re ready to deliver the hoverboard.
Follow Elizabeth Kreft (@elizabethakreft) on Twitter.