By now, we all know Google Maps Street View. It’s been around for over 10 years, in which we’ve probably all used it to go down memory lane and revisit old neighbourhoods, or maybe even to have a look at some of the world’s most famous monuments. The access to the rest of the world, straight from our couch, is ever-growing, but you might be underestimating how much exactly you can do with it. So here is a list of a few uses you might benefit from:
#1. Scoping out new areas
Whether you are house hunting, going on holidays somewhere new, or staking a new running route, you can use Street View to enhance your research. Virtually walking around the streets lets you get a feel of the area, scope out whether there is a lot of amenities nearby like grocery stores and restaurants, and find out whether the address of your hotel or your potential new house is on a major avenue or a quiet street. And if you are preparing for the next city marathon, some users have utilized Street View to plan their training routes, both for scenic purposes, and making sure there is room to run on the sidewalk.
#2. Do a trial run before going to new places
Maybe going somewhere new is as easy as putting the address in Google Maps and being guided there. But if you are preparing for an interview for example, Street View can be a real stress and time savior. Use it to map out your route and work out how to navigate through tricky intersections, get familiar with the area, and find exactly where the entrance to the building is. Trust me, I have been there. Five minutes to go before I have to meet my potential new employer and no clue where building 2B is because of poor signage. It would have saved me a lot of anxiety to pin the location and have a look around on Street View the night before.
#3. Check important landscape information
Ever gone somewhere new only to find out there is no street parking? Street View can help with that. Of course, the information is not updated live, so this isn't about knowing where there will be a free parking spot, but rather can you park there, or in the area, at all. This can also be handy if you are trying to establish whether an area is wheelchair accessible or not.
Professionals of many industries already use Street View for this kind of surveying and checking or information. Some examples are scouting the safest area for a school bus stop, checking for fire hydrants, water and gas valves by civil engineers, and collecting textures and typologies for renderings by architects. A favourite of mine though is movie scouts using Street View in search of the best filming locations.
#4. Fines, insurance, and arguments.
What do all these have in common? Google Street View can help you get the upper hand. It happens to all of us, we park somewhere thinking we are law-abiding citizens only to find a fine on our windshield when we get back. Turns out there is a no-parking sign hidden behind an overgrown bush, or behind other parked cars. Street View makes it easier to contest a fine by snapping screenshots of badly signed street, or plain wrong signs. Or, if you if you are sitting at your desk now wondering if you remember the parking rules correctly, hop on and have a look at the signage for some peace of mind. Another user of Street view used the image of his house for insurance purposes, though be worn, not every area is updated as frequently, and you want to make sure you have the right dates for that one. Finally, if you’re like me, you’ll get yourself into some of the most absurd arguments about the color or location of a building, be it from my hometown or the location of a movie scene. Drive the final blow to your opponent with some location imagery. But this use of Street Views comes with a warning...be sure to be right.
#5. Reverse location finding
A lot of these uses assume you already know the address of the location you are immersing yourself into. However, Street View can be very useful when you remember the general area of a location, but can’t pinpoint the address. Just virtually walk around and let landscape markers help you to get back to the location you are searching for, pin it, and Google Maps will give you the address attached to the pin.
So there you go, a few tips to get more use out of Street View. It is such a great navigation tool, and this list is definitely not exhaustive. For a more playful use of Street View have a look at our blog about GeoGuessr and how they created a discovery game with Google Maps and Street View.