Google Maps has moved on from the big intersections and broad avenues in Paris to the tiny pedestrian walkways so that Street View covers all these nooks and crannies. “The idea is to be able to offer 360-degree images of places that were inaccessible before,” Google spokesperson Anne-Gabrielle Dauba-Pantanacce said in an interview. The fact that Google wants to conquer all the streets by photo is not really a surprise. However, how they do it is fairly interesting. Ironically, all these photos must be taken “by hand” — i.e. on a goofy-looking tricycle that sports a long pole in the back.
The pole holds an octagonal platform with eight cameras on the sides and one on top. Every minute, the cameras take bursts of high-definition photos to allow online users to get a virtual tour of the area. The riders, decked out in Google T-shirts and white helmets, are currently visiting well-known sites such as the Chateau de Versailles west of Paris, the Jardin du Luxembourg on the city’s Left Bank, and Les Halles in the busy center of the French capital; they’ll be done mapping Paris as of the August 20. Northern France is next, and then in the fall, the south. Similar tricycles already hit the UK and Italy earlier this year, but Greece is not next on the list; authorities there want more privacy safeguards in place before they allow the cameras in. As for the bikers themselves, they’re enjoying their time cruising the city. “I rode two hours this morning,” said 25-year-old Gregory Landais, who was taking a break after cruising through La Defense, France’s touch of Manhattan. “For a site like this, it can take up to five hours.”