I live in a part of New York that is sometimes called Manhattan Valley. You wouldn’t know why until seeing this snapshot from Google Earth. Though almost all of lower Manhattan now has skinned buildings, my area does not. It’s ironic, since the building across the street (at 100th and Broadway), which shows as a construction site on Google Earth, is now one of the tallest in more than 30 blocks. I’m not complaining, really, just surprised to see this depression–it looks like a giant footprint, right in my neighborhood.
More broadly, I’ve found myself in the strange position of visiting old houses and neighborhoods in Google Earth, and on the web. I stroll down Motomachi and note a new Gap–they show up everywhere these days. As do, it seems, the Street View vans. It made sense that they would start with the large cities, but I somehow didn’t expect them to start covering my old neighborhood in Buffalo (ah, so there’s the neighbor’s new playhouse–they told us about that) or my Mom’s place in California that I’ve never visited, but sits out in a spot that is pretty remote. What happens when the Google car covers the globe? Well, they turn around and do it again, of course. That way we can also roll the clock back.
Google Earth already integrates some photos, those marked on Panoramio, but wouldn’t it be nice to integrate video from YouTube, or images from Picasa (or heck, be more open and include Flickr and Revver). As more of our multimedia becomes time stamped and geotagged, I think we can look forward to records that come close to approximating what was happening at a given time or place. Now, of course, if you are out in the middle of nowhere, the nearest tagged photo may be beyond the horizon and five years old. But in Times Square, you can see photos from last week. Is it that hard to believe that, as more and more phones and cameras include instant uploading, that images from an hour ago, or from five minutes ago, are that far off?
This isn’t some huge leap in technology, this is just charting the current trajectory. What happens when you want to know where your friend is standing and can pull up five views of 82nd and Broadway from your mobile?