Street View is 15 this week, and to mark its birthday Google has added an important upgrade to Google Maps on both iPhones and Android phones.
Writing in the official Google blog, Google Maps product director Ethan Russell has announced a new time travel feature that'll enable you to see not just what a place looks like now, but what it used to look like: "when you're viewing Street View imagery of a place, tap anywhere on the photo to see information about the location," he says. "Then tap 'see more dates' to see the historical imagery... dating back to when Street View launched in 2007". He describes it as a "digital time capsule" and it's really interesting to look at places where there's been a lot of recent development.
This isn't a completely new feature – it's been available on desktop for nearly eight years – but it's a worthwhile addition to the mobile app. And Google has also announced a way to get better Street View images in the future.
The Google camera you can't buy
In addition to its historical information, Google has also announced a new Street View camera for capturing 360-degree images. It's much smaller than the backpack cameras on-foot Street View photographers currently lug around; Google says it's roughly the size of a cat and weighs just under 7kg.
That's important because smaller cameras can go to more places and be attached to more kinds of vehicles. As The Verge reports, Google has obtained Street View images by strapping its cameras to everything from snowmobiles to gondolas, and the newer, smaller, lighter camera can clearly be attached to even more things than before.
The camera isn't just more portable. It's also better quality, with higher resolution sensors that deliver less noise and capture 140MP panoramas. But you won't see it in your town for a little while yet: while the camera was announced this week, it won't be rolled out to Google's "trekkers" and Street View cars until next year.