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Google Street View now includes interiors (maps.google.com)
343 points by mikeocool on Oct 26, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 114 comments

Here's another one: http://maps.google.com/?q=Scream%20Sorbet,%20Oakland,%20CA

This one's my business. They came to shoot the interior as a perk for participating in a "Google Offer". I think this is how they are rolling it out, at least in the Bay Area. To me, the results came out fine, although I worry that it now makes "casing the joint" a little easier.

It took them two visits to get it right. The first time apparently had some silly technical glitch where the automatic processor didn't stitch the photos together correctly. It took maybe 20-30 minutes for the full visit, which would make doing this universally quite a chore.

I can't figure out how to get inside your store. I feel a bit like I am playing badly-designed video game.

Also, you own a food business!?? I am fascinated by the idea, can you talk more about it?

Click the place result title on the left ("Scream Sorbet"), then click the image above the text ads on the right.

I find getting inside the virtual store tricky as well. First click on the text link to the Places page. Then click on the right arrow on the image on the lower right of the page (labeled Store Front). Then click on the white arrow on the ground pointing at the door. Alternatively, just wait until the still image turns into video and starts showing the inside of the store, then click on it. Badly designed video game seems accurate!

I'm happy to talk about sorbet and food in general, but this thread doesn't seem like the right venue. My email is in my profile, or if you are in the area we could talk at the store some slow afternoon.

> I can't figure out how to get inside your store. I feel a bit like I am playing badly-designed video game.

lol me too.

How did a Hacker News reader happen to open a sorbet shop??

Opening my own ice cream shop (in the south Rockridge/Temescal neighborhood, no less!) has been my (half-joking) dream job if I decided to switch careers. When Scream Sorbet opened in Temescal, I was both excited and frustrated that someone saw the same market opportunity! <;)

I opened it through strange circumstances. I was getting ready to launch a likely ill-conceived movie recommendations business with a couple friends, when I got West Nile Virus. Recovery was slow, and I thought I'd do a small farmers' market sorbet business with a friend while (literally) waiting for my brain to recover enough to do linear algebra again.

The product was great, and while the margins were OK, a few farmers' markets a week proved not to be enough to cover all the various overheads. The friend dropped out because he needed something that would pay his rent, others got involved, and we kept adding markets. Then a fantastic location next to Bake Sale Betty came open, so we jumped on it. Now I just need to figure out how to get it to the point where it can sustain itself so I can get back to recommendations engines!

Feel free to stop by and say hi. If you're serious about a career change, would be a better manager of a sorbet company than I am (not hard), and don't need to make much money, maybe we can work something out. I'm proud of the product quality, but I'm sure there are people who could run it as a better business than I can. :)

(Bay Area folks, this sorbet is amazing. Wish I hadn't moved out of Temescal...)

-Step 1: Go to Bakesale Betty's -Step 2: Go to Scream Sorbet -Step 3: There is no step 3.

Find a way to burn the twelve hundred calories you just consumed?

Go to Pacific Ring Sports on 40th and Telegraph?

<step 3: genovas delicatessen>

Can you describe what the contraption looks like? Is it pretty much like the Google Car but a tripod on wheels instead?

Woah. Did you happen to look out into the street from the location in that first link you posted? Trippy stuff.

Yeah, that face detection blur kinda fails when it's a crowd of people.

Love the motion blur effect around his body.

I think it's a she in the second link.

I actually wasn't present during the shoot, although I saw her setting up. It seemed like a semi-pro digital still camera on a tripod. Perhaps it was on wheels? I think it was a fisheye lens? It seemed very low tech. I think all the fanciness is with the post-processing to stitch the photos together and correct the perspective.

You can see the tripod legs if you look down on any shot by clicking the "Down" arrow on the white wheel in the upper left of the interior shots. For our shoot, you can also get a pretty good reflected view in the doorway if you "stand" halfway outside then look left.

It appears to be a DSLR, a fisheye lens, and a 360precision Atome panoramic tripod head.

> It took maybe 20-30 minutes for the full visit, which would make doing this universally quite a chore.

I assume they're working out the quirks so the process can be much smoother and they can do a row of businesses in a strip mall in the same amount of time.

The technology is 360 x 180 degree virtual tours made with panoramas similar to street view technology. There is a few different methods of shooting the panoramas all of which produce a 360 x 180 photograph(s). The photographs are then designed into a tour to allow for transitions. You can view more of these type tours over a http://hdvirtualcitytours.com

Love the idea, but the Street View UI has never felt all that fun to use and it feels worse indoors. Walking around a shop or mall at Street View pace—12-ish steps for every press of a small, non-fixed arrow—is something I hope I never have a reason to do.

The pancake (http://techcrunch.com/2009/06/04/introducing-the-pancake-a-l...) and the city-scale of things make moving on streets more tolerable (though Legoland is not bad: http://maps.google.com/maps?q=legoland&hl=en&ll=33.1...), what's the interface for person-scale, cramped interior navigation? Until there's a solid answer this doesn't seem very enjoyable.

The Street View UI in the Google Earth app lets you walk around using first-person shooter WASD controls.

The surrounding textures are pasted onto simple 3D rectangles approximating buildings and houses. As you move, they transition into each other, giving you the least distorted view possible. With a fast connection, it feels pretty realistic, like you're walking around the neighborhood.

Almost like how mipmaps, if done well in 3D games, aren't really noticeable.

12-ish steps for every press of a small, non-fixed arrow—is something I hope I never have a reason to do.

I accidentally discovered some keyboard commands to navigate which feels slightly easier, though the constant pausing to re-render the image is wonky.

The UI is definitely not enjoyable but I still like the effort and what we have now. It's been a great way to scout places in advance to figure out where I'm going and suitability for renting.

You can double click on the ground to move to that spot, or on the side of a building to move there and look at that spot. I see that indoors you cannot do this, but hopefully they will add it.

Yeah, that's the "pancake". It works in street-level view because there's 3D spatial data to help bound navigable regions, and because when you're at street-scale you don't mind being a little off. In this comic bookery or in any cramped space I feel like I'd need slightly higher fidelity.

When did google start using flash for street view?

Since forever? As I recall it's always been Flash.

You might think you'd like to make a more open viewer, but Google won't let you. For example, someone reverse engineered the data formats (fairly trivial, they're just XML documents that point to the panorama jpgs) and Google cease and desisted their info off the web: http://igargoyle.com/streetview/

They have an experimental WebGL version.


This set me to imagining: every item in the store is dropped into a box before being put on the shelf. The box contains cameras on every interior face to snap a set of 360° views of the item. The UPC code is scanned and entered into inventory. The item goes on the shelf. If sold, the sale removes that item from inventory.

Each night after store closing, a Store View bot roams the aisles taking pictures and updating for the next day.

You browse to the store on Google Street View, go inside with Store View, and if you see an item you like, you draw a box around it and ask the image search algorithm to look for a match based on appearance. It finds the item, tells you how much it costs, and gives you the option to buy it.

Stores would get some basic frequency (annual?) of scan free, more frequent scans or keeping a bot on premises to scan every night would cost more. Integration of the online store would have a fee attached to every purchase. Prices and discounts could be updated daily and there could be different incentives for online vs. in-store purchases.

As data storage and computational power get cheaper and cheaper, and image recognition algorithms get more sophisticated, this would seem to be a potential outcome. A package of algorithms could even be marketed as a store manager: moving stock that has sat on the shelf too long with discounts, predicting what will require reorders soonest, integration with price comparison engines to analyze competitiveness, etc. Once imagery is dissectable and searchable in the same way that language is, things could get very interesting very fast.

Through this idea, Google turns brick-and-mortar stores into the equivalent of an Amazon distribution warehouse. The result could be a highly decentralized Amazon alternative with Google's imprimatur, grown from the bottom up.

And while Amazon is stuck with maintaining both computer and physical infrastructure, Google will have effectively offloaded the physical infrastructure to the free market. Not only that, but while Amazon must seek economies of scale and efficiency at every point of the distribution network, Google can leverage the irrationality and inefficiency inherent in a distribution network composed of individual retail outlets. In the same way that eBay doesn't have to worry about packing up and shipping millions of disparate items, it just takes a fee off the top for delivering the sale.

I wonder about the benefits versus the costs to stores. Though you can already walk into a retail store and Google up an item on your phone to see if it's cheaper somewhere else... and you can already search for reviews of an item online, etc. I guess what is interesting here is that Google is delivering the physicality of a store to your screen; so conceivably some walk-ins that might have occurred just to check a place out will now occur online. On the flip side, turning every retail outlet into a 24 hour business has got to have some appeal.

Going really crazy with this, looking ahead to Google's driverless cars getting approval to run without a safety driver on board, you could Store View to your favorite cafe, put in your order for the caffeinated beverage of your choice, have the Google car drop by, the barista puts the drinks in a carrier in the back seat, the car picks up some Chinese food, energy bars, and a pair of earphones for you on the way back, you get a text telling you to go outside to pick everything up, you scan your GoogleID into the car, get your stuff, head back into the office and prepare to code all night. If you are so inclined, you drop a few bucks into the online tip jars of the coffee shop and restaurant. Based on your tip ratio, the star rating of the establishments in question are bumped up ever so slightly.

Google has the computers, cameras, and cars to take over the world of running errands.

One of the phrases I've started using is, in the future you don't have to talk to anyone.

You see this already with the self-checkouts at stores. You walk in, grab what you want, check out and leave without talking to anyone. This is just the start of a torrent of low level automation. At some point there is not a lot left to do.

What amazes me is that we are seeing this happen around us so rapidly; near-total automation is on the visible horizon.

"At some point there is not a lot left to do" reminds me of the story "With Folded Hands" by Jack Williamson. http://www.powells.com/biblio/61-9780312852535-0

The most interesting part comes when they start indexing these images so that you can search products (and prices) within stores. The tech is mostly there (see google goggles).

Then you can answer the question "Where's the closest store with jumper cables?" Or really, "show me where the jumper cables are."

A very big map reduce job, but seems feasible.

I've often wanted to google the location of items within Home Depot for example. That would be way easier than asking someone, who often doesnt know the answer!

you've got to batch process this task. Just go through employees until you get the answer, or a close approximation. It's still faster than aimlessly searching. Think of it as a kind of meatspace binary search.

Perhaps something like this: http://company.mappedin.com/ Except down to a product level?

I used to be too timid to ask employees, but since I've gotten over that I've usually found that they do know where things are.

Not at Home Depot. The employees there tend to only know where things are in one small section of the store. And for other sections they send you on a wild goose chase where every employee you ask tells you a completely different section and you cannot find what you are looking for in any of them.

I'm sure this varies wildly by locale. In Austin, most employees I've ever asked anything pretty much knew.

If I could upvote this multiple times I would.

I've always wanted a service like this.

I needed a USB hub the other day, and I couldn't really wait days for it to show up from an internet store.

I could search the website of a big (expensive) chain store, PC World, but we have lots and lots of tiny local computer stores, and supermarkets with small tech sections, whose inventory is an absolute mystery unless I was to go and expend gas driving around them all. I often just bite the bullet and pay over the odds at PC World because I know they have the item, and I won't have to spend money and time travelling round and round.

I've often thought "where's my nearest store that sells X, right now?" would be a neat idea for a startup. It sounds like an administration nightmare, though.

What you describe sounds like Milo[1] before Ebay bought them last December. I'm not sure how they've kept up post-acquisition.


You mean like this search using Google shopping?


This is what Milo tried to do. They found it difficult enough that they sold to Google instead.

Milo was acquired by eBay [1], not Google.

[1] http://techcrunch.com/2010/12/02/confirmed-ebay-acquires-mil...

my mistake.

Well, having a standardized public inventory systems would be more to the point. The tech is obviously there, but I'm sure not many businesses would be onboard.

Once a fashion blog links to some awesome dress only available at this store right here (see picture of dress at store, with navigation options), businesses will get on board. Small businesses probably have the most to gain because they can let their most passionate customers do more of their advertising for them in social media.

Feasible? Until you realize they would have to visit each shop at least once a month, for many weekly or even daily.

Retailers will just buy or rent robots to do this stuff.

They blurred the face of the guy in the store, but not the faces on the comic-book covers. Interesting.

Although I agree that most comic faces are left unblurred--when I look at some (perhaps 15%) of the faces visible, they are without a doubt blurred. They tend to be the ones that are forward-facing, without facial hair, and natural skin colors.

Example: Take a look at the GI Joe comic on your right all the way at the end.

Is this an Easter Egg? When I zoomed out I couldn't find a way to get back in.

If you clicked the white "backwards" arrow to zoom out and see the storefront (along with neighboring stores), click the "forwards" arrow to get back into the store.

I zoomed out to the normal satellite view. I could then only get street view on the roads and not the shop.

You have to click on the link to the stores Place Page on the left then under the mini map on the right you will see rotating images, click that and bam!

And the store owners will be able to put on digital price tags and ads, and viewers may click to buy online... next thing you know, you and your friend are "sitting" inside a restaurant on google "store" view and eating the food delivered from that place...

And suddenly, I want to re-read Snow Crash.

And also have a digital assistant whose ethnicity changes based on who wanders into my virtual business.

I'd like to see a "Local Product" search come out of this.

Allow businesses to integrate their inventory systems with Google so that I can search for a copy of Strictly Turntablized and see that a used CD shop down the street has a copy.

Have the results include how many copies they have on hand, the price of the item, information about how to reserve the item and where I might find it in the store (floor, isle, shelf) if I choose to just run over there.

I'm most impressed with the stitching and lack of the typical fisheye distortion effect that plagues 3D views like this. Almost every possible view looks like a normal photo. Well done!

The "fisheye distortion effect that plagues 3D views like this" that you describe is nothing of the sort. You are talking about a very wide angle of view. These images have a limited FOV, and it's not possible to zoom out so much that you get such distortion.

Actually it is not fisheye distortion that you describe at all - it is a rectilinear projection, and it's this type of projection that looks bad in a wide FOV. A fisheye projection looks much more natural if you are looking at a view with 110º FOV.

These things are not "distortion" at all but merely different projections of a spherical image on a flat surface. There is no "correct" way.

You can right-click on this panorama to change projection and understand more what I'm talking about. http://www.360cities.net/image/a-busy-morning

I realize that, just wasn't sure of how to describe it which is why I tacked on "effect" (might not be the actual type of distortion, but to a user the appearance is similar). From a user's perspective it most definitely does look wrong even though there is technically no "correct" way. Thanks for the link!

I like them plotting more of the Y axis points of place. But I really look forward to the day when we can move on X, seeing the changes in these over time.

There are a few research projects to reconstruct historical views by automatically aligning and extracting building outlines from old photographs, e.g. this one from a few years ago: http://4d-cities.cc.gatech.edu/atlanta/

Google presumably has a ton of data to do it going forward somewhat more easily, though, if filling in pre-streetview periods isn't a priority.

Over time, the problem of maintenance overwhelms usability. Like the street view, but to a greater degree now, comes the problem of keeping those googlebytes of data updated ahead of looming obsolescence. Cool I can go in a store and look around...but what updates store change or - worse - closure?

ETA: puzzled by downvotes. Satellite views can be updated on a regular basis with relative ease by a largely passive system, and what's imaged is rather static; street view updates come with re-driving every road which ain't easy or cheap and may need more frequent updates; interiors change even more often and imagery/data cost much more per byte to maintain. Sure, interior views are cool - what's the cost of obtaining, and more important maintaining, them?

I think the 360 Pano guys have a potential solution for the update challenge: http://www.occipital.com/360/verse

I'm curious what long-term incentive would be for updates, though.

I started a company a few years ago to capitalize on being able do shoot high quality, 360 interiors. Started out shooting exteriors and then Google Street view popped up, so we needed to figure out how to do something different. We developed technology to mass produce high quality 360 panoramas and integrate a social tagging component (click on the shoe in the store to get information about it and buy it or click on a bench downtown and post about the special moment that occurred on it).

Here is the site if anyone is interested: http://walkspots.com/beta/

Long time HN reader, but this is my first post.

So is there anything other than this one comic book store an Legoland San Diego available? How can we find 'em? I'd love to go for a stroll through, say, the British Museum.

Not quite the same thing and it doesn't include the British museum but you may find this interesting: http://www.googleartproject.com/

It's part of Google's recently launched program to do Places/Street View photos of businesses in select cities


Haha, wow. I use Google Street View a lot for scouting out empty buildings (I squat for housing). It would be amazing if you could see the inside of them without having to break in to do so!

The Guitar Shop is awesome, http://maps.google.com/maps?q=Gruhn+Guitars+Inc&hl=en...

Go outside and lots of people walking around with blurred faces.

Yes, I would shop here http://maps.google.com/maps?ll=33.742817,-117.8166&spn=0...

(Yay deeplinking)

This reminded me of quite interesting talk about bing maps: http://www.ted.com/talks/blaise_aguera.html

They too showed some interior and (I think) talked about "mapping" it. The talk is almost two years old so it suprised me that it's new in google maps. But I don't know if it's actually used in bing maps as I don't use them (just for the bird-eye occasionally).

Interesting to see this on HN since I blogged about this a few weeks ago. http://geek.michaelgrace.org/2011/10/google-street-view-in-y... Not sure exactly when Google first started doing this but I like it.

This is one of the Google Maps new features I suggested during my phone interview for a job in Google almost two years ago... their choice to reject my application didn't make much sense to me back at the time, but right now it makes no sense at all!!

Love the simplicity of their setup (camera on tripod on wheels) https://skitch.com/mikegrace/gds67/screen-shot-2011-10-26-at...

I wonder where the operator has to stand. Maybe it takes it one side at a time?

Otherwise you'd see camera guys hiding behind trees and such, which is an amusing thought.

I do think the interior is the next big push, but its not grabbing historical photos - its interior location so you can target ads in real-time and real-location. Manga, produce, housewares, TVs?

Pretty soon video games will use street view to create their maps.

"Google - Indoors" for privately-owned houses and flats:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5EhK4jW8HYo (in German)

If you look straight down in the linked shot you can see that they are using a camera on a tripod in lieu of the previous backpack or cart mounted multi-camera rigs

Even clearer from the shadow outside : http://maps.google.com/maps?ll=33.742845,-117.816621&spn...


Good point, I cannot find this anywhere else at the moment.

btw, you've been hellbanned for about 52 days now, so no one can see your comments unless they have showdead=on.

@ahmetalpbalkan comment on hating Lisp books seems to have done it; your karma average is only .22.

could also be the fact that most of his submissions are from his own site.

Wow, if those shown stuffs will be searchable and we can run e-commerce, such technology might completely change our world. Interesting.

Looks innovative.

Userinterface needs some improvement, how about using a mouse wheel to navigate forward/backword. Move mouse left/right to turn.

You can move forward/backwards/anywhere an arrow points using the arrows on the keyboard and look up/down/left/right with the WASD keys - much better than clicking with the mouse :-).

This actually is pretty cool. Two wishful additions:

- Indoor navigation.

- Integration of live video streams at location.

There are a few startups working on the Indoor Navigation part: http://www.qubulus.com/2011/06/07/the-indoor-positioning-mar...

sweet, that's pretty close to where I grew up. What other places can I "walk" into?

I dragged the little guy around, and all it shows are streets that I can view (even a parking lot, which seems pretty retarded).

Now, just need click-to-purchase, and we have a virtual store.

This might be good for finding places in theaters and planes.

This sucks. I can't even open the pages of the comics!

Anyone have any ideas on what caused the phantom cars?

Something along these lines was predicted 2 years ago. Remember the Google Maps is Scary video?


Google Peep View?

This will be "Earth Mall"

that bike outside isn't locked ...

now thats the kind of information we want to know. When do we get real-time?

Go out to the street (use back arrow on the floor of the UI) then at the WSW point there is a ghost/cloaked car.

Perhaps someone was riding the bike and they're using content-aware filling to delete them!!

what?! its not april 1st yet...

If I were a business I would OPT OUT of this immediatley.

The only thing I can parallel this too is Googling your date before the first date. Going in knowing too much can often ruin the fun or the mystery of discovery.

Sure it might save you from "bad experiences", but we need bad experiences in life to really value the good ones!

On the other hand, being able to share links to products in a specific store may have interesting effects. Imagine someone writing a Facebook post about dress they found, and linking directly to it in the store. Or some viral twitter post. Once that happens a few times, stores will be paying companies to keep their interior up to date on Google.

I would readily do without buyer's remorse.

Now I have everything I need to plan a robbery. I can see the setup of the store and the best getaway route, all without having to step foot in the store before the robbery!

no one was stopping you from putting on sunglasses and a hat and walking around the store before this

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