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Google Maps Shows Underwater Sights

Take that Apple: Google Street View map images are now available for a few underwater locations.

Thomas Claburn

September 26, 2012

2 Min Read

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Amid dissatisfaction with the accuracy of the map data in Apple's iOS 6 Maps app, Google is taking the opportunity to remind the Internet community of the depth of its map services.

On Tuesday, Google introduced the first underwater panoramic images to Google Maps. Brian McClendon, VP of Google Maps and Earth, characterized the occasion as "the next step in our quest to provide people with the most comprehensive, accurate, and usable map of the world."

If those dissatisfied with Apple's Maps app see competitive one-upmanship in the timing of Google's announcement, Google can't control people's assumptions.

Google already offered a reminder back in June that it has been developing map technology for almost a decade during a Google Maps event. The timing of that announcement appeared to represent an effort to mitigate concern about the company's mobile business prospects following Apple's anticipated eviction of Google map data from the iOS Maps app.

Google is said to be working on an iOS Google Maps app that will be distributed through the Apple iTunes App Store before the end of the year, according to the New York Times.

[ Want to see the guts of the iPhone 5? View a slideshow: Apple iPhone 5 Teardown: Visual Tour. ]

Google has been adding ocean geography to Google Earth, its desktop map software, since 2009. Initially, the company focused on ocean floor topography, but it has been adding more detail lately.

In February, Google, working with Australia's University of Queensland and insurance multinational The Catlin Group, announced plans to develop Seaview, which is to say Street View without streets. At the time, the intention was to make survey imagery available in September 2012 and the project has kept to its schedule.

Now, Google Maps users can, as McClendon suggests, see a sea turtle swimming with fish, follow a manta ray, and visit noted snorkeling spots like Oahu's Hanauma Bay and Maui's Molokini crater.

Google's underwater imagery turns out to be clearer than its surface imagery due to lack of concern about marine privacy. Whereas Google blurs the faces of people, license plates, and sometimes animals in its Street View images, it does not degrade pictures that happen to catch marine life in frame. However, if Google continues to expand its Seaview data set beyond carefully curated galleries, it's only a matter of time before some mammal gets photographed doing something blur-worthy.

About the Author(s)

Thomas Claburn

Editor at Large, Enterprise Mobility

Thomas Claburn has been writing about business and technology since 1996, for publications such as New Architect, PC Computing, InformationWeek, Salon, Wired, and Ziff Davis Smart Business. Before that, he worked in film and television, having earned a not particularly useful master's degree in film production. He wrote the original treatment for 3DO's Killing Time, a short story that appeared in On Spec, and the screenplay for an independent film called The Hanged Man, which he would later direct. He's the author of a science fiction novel, Reflecting Fires, and a sadly neglected blog, Lot 49. His iPhone game, Blocfall, is available through the iTunes App Store. His wife is a talented jazz singer; he does not sing, which is for the best.

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