Friday, October 5, 2012

Google Goes Underwater

If you have been online ever then you are probably familiar with Google Street View, the interactive panorama feature within Google Maps. Over the past couple of years Google Maps has expanded past the terrestrial roads we drive everyday to more exotic locales such as eye-level images of Antarctica, inside NASA's Kennedy Space Center, floating down the Amazon, and through the halls of famous museums.

Now Google Maps is going underwater. On Wednesday, the site added panoramic undersea images of the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, visages of the waters off the Apo Islands in the Philippines, and the wonder that is the underwater life around the Hawaiian islands. It even has zoom features that allow you to get close up looks of coral and fish. These photos are part of a partnership with the Catlin Seaview Survey, a project working to document the world's reefs in 360-degree images so that scientists can study them. Their partnership with Google is an attempt to get people involved in the fate of these ecosystems and to understand how oceans play a role in the health of the planet.

The images you see were taken by a camera called SVII that was custom-designed for the Catlin Seaview Survey. The design of the camera was inspired by sharks, and it is a rapid-fire camera that can be controlled by a tablet in a watertight housing. When a picture is taken it also records GPS data along with the exact angle at which the photo was taken. However, taking images at greater depths (30-100m or 98-328ft) becomes a little more complicated. The Survey crew will need to send down a special remotely operated vehicle outfitted with remote-controlled digital single-lens reflex cameras. Right now you can browse through the 15,000 available panoramic photos. And keep a look out for more photos in the future. The team would like to have between 50,000 and 100,000 pictures by the end of next year, expanding to sites like Bermuda, the Caribbean, the Indian Ocean, and the Coral Triangle.

Learn more here:
World Wonders Project
Google article: "Dive into the Great Barrier Reef with the first underwater panoramas in Google Maps"
CNN Tech article: "Stunning undersea panoramas now on Google Street View"

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