One of the best features in Google (News - Alert) Maps has to be Street View. While it's got some people a bit creeped out, what with how close Street View can actually get to their front door, it's also saved some people unnecessary travel by letting them "visit" a certain location and showing them that those locations are no longer there. But earlier today, Google unveiled its newest offering, allowing users to take Street View somewhere where there aren't even streets to view: underwater.
Users of Google Maps can now take their viewing party underwater to several different venues, including the Great Barrier Reef in Australia and Hanauma Bay in Hawaii, as well as four other exotic underwater locales.
The footage was obtained thanks to a partnership between Google and The Catlin Seaview Survey, a group which stages regular, scientific examinations of the world's major reef systems. The Catlin Seaview Survey's weapon of choice was a specialized underwater camera known as the SVII, capable of full 360-degree panoramic photo shooting, so that made it an ideal choice for the kind of footage that Google would have used in Street View.
It's not just the reef formations that should draw users, either; there are also unusual features in the offing like sea turtles, schools of fish, and even snorkelers in some spots. Google further offers links to its World Wonders Project, providing extra information about some of the sights included on Street View and those in the vicinity, like the Hiroshima Peace Memorial or the Great Barrier Reef.
No doubt the updated Google Street View will prove welcome to those who always wanted to see these major sights, but were unable to afford the air fares required to see them. There was a growing movement back in the early days of the Great Recession known as the "staycation" in which people stayed closer to home instead of going long distances for trips.
With things like the augmented Street View allowing people to view the great cities of the world, and some of the natural wonders as well, from their home computers, it's easy to see why the staycation may well stay in vogue for some time. After all, not so long ago, Google took us down to Antarctica, so why not head underwater next?
While it may never fully replace actually being there, it may one day be, like the efforts of Philip K. Dick's Rekall Corporation, too close to real to tell the difference.
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Edited by Brooke Neuman