- Google+: Communities and photos
- Explore digital archives of buildings in Japan affected by the 2011 tsunami
- Building a better map of Europe
Posted: 06 Dec 2012 08:15 AM PST
For our international readers, this post is also available in Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Russian, Portuguese and Spanish (Spain, Latin America). - Ed.
During the holidays we reconnect with loved ones and rediscover what makes us tick. And it's times like these that remind me why we started Google+ in the first place: to make online sharing as meaningful as the real thing. Too often our online tools miss the subtlety and substance of real-world interactions, and Google+ aims to fix this. Fortunately we've got a vibrant community to guide us.
Today Google+ is the fastest-growing network thingy ever. More than 500 million people have upgraded, 235 million are active across Google (+1'ing apps in Google Play, hanging out in Gmail, connecting with friends in Search...), and 135 million are active in just the stream.
This enthusiasm, we think, stems from our building tools that build real relationships—in a live hangout, around a breathtaking photo, or with an inner circle of friends. So today we're launching two new improvements that help bring the nuance and richness of real-life sharing to software.
Google+ Communities: for all the people you ought to know
From photography to astronomy (and everything in between), Google+ has always been a place to crowd around common interests and meet new people. What's been missing, however, are more permanent homes for all the stuff you love: the wonderful, the weird, and yes, even the things that are waaay out there. With Google+ Communities there's now a gathering place for your passions, including:
To give it a try just click on the new "Communities" icon (rolling out today), then create or join your favorite community. It's only a preview, and mobile's coming soon, so we're keen to get your feedback.
Snapseed: beautiful photos with your mobile device
Great pictures aren't taken, they're made—and Nik Software has been helping people make awesome photos for years. Having welcomed Nik to the Google family, we're excited to bring their Snapseed app (last year's iPad app of the year) to Android. It includes:
Sample image created with Snapseed; gallery available here
This time of year we honor the past, and imagine what's ahead. So we want to thank you for lending your big hearts to this small project. And we invite you to a future where everyone's cared for and comfortable in their own skin—in life and online. Let's keep building Google+ together, and let's be excellent to each other this holiday season.
Posted: 06 Dec 2012 05:41 AM PST
A year ago we released Street View imagery of areas in Northeastern Japan that were affected by the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami. Our hope was that the 360-degree panoramas would provide a comprehensive, accurate and easy-to-use way for people around the world to view the damage to the region by enabling a virtual walk through of the disaster zones.
The panoramas were only the start of our digital archiving project. Last month we took the next step—using the technology behind Business Photos to photograph the inside of buildings in Northeastern Japan that were heavily damaged but still standing. We worked with four city governments in the Tōhoku area to photograph more than 30 buildings, and today we're bringing this imagery to Google Maps and our Memories for the Future site. The new imagery enables you to walk through the buildings and switch between floors to get a first-hand glimpse at the extent of the destruction caused by the earthquake and tsunami.
The timing of the project was critical. There has been a strong debate in these areas whether to keep the buildings up as a permanent reminder of the tragedy or to tear them down to allow emotional wounds to heal. After long consultations with their citizens, many local governments have decided to move forward with demolishing the buildings. Knowing this, we quickly moved to photograph the buildings before they started to be dismantled.
The panorama below shows an elementary school very close to the ocean. Thankfully, all the students survived the disaster as they had been well drilled to rush to escape at the sound of tsunami warnings.
Panorama of Kamaishi Municipal Toni Elementary School
Other sites include Rikuzentakata city public housing, a building that physically demonstrates the heights of the tsunami wave. Everything up to the fourth floor is completely ruined, but the fifth floor remains mostly unscathed.
Panorama of Rikuzentakata City Public Housing
We've also captured imagery of Ukedo Elementary School and a few other buildings in Namie Town—located in the restricted area (PDF) within 20km of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. In the elementary school, you can see holes in the gym floor, where a graduation banner still hangs in the gym, though the ceremony never took place.
Panorama of Ukedo Elementary School
We'll continue to photograph more buildings in two Iwate Prefecture cities, Ōfunato and Kamaishi, over the coming weeks. By the end of the year, we also hope to complete the collection of imagery from five new cities in the Miyagi prefecture. We look forward to making this new imagery available as soon as it's ready to pay tribute to both the tragedy of the disaster and the current efforts to rebuild. City governments in Northeastern Japan that are interested in this digital archiving project are welcome to contact us through this form.
Posted: 05 Dec 2012 04:44 PM PST
More than a billion people use Google Maps each month to find their way around town and around the world. To help these people get exactly the information they need, the Google Maps team works constantly to ensure that the geographic data behind our maps is comprehensive and accurate. As part of this ongoing effort, we've just released updated maps for 10 countries and regions in Europe: Andorra, Bulgaria, Estonia, Gibraltar, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain.
Today's update is part of a project called Ground Truth that began in 2008. Through this initiative, we acquire high-quality map data from authoritative sources around the world and then apply a mix of advanced algorithms, supplemental data (including satellite, aerial and Street View imagery), and human input to create a map that corresponds as closely as possible to the real-world facts that you'd find if you were to visit that location.
For example, this update adds a new 70-km section of Bulgaria's Trakiya motorway, which opened recently to drivers but hasn't been reflected on most maps of the region until now.
But roads and highways alone don't define the character of a place, and they aren't always sufficient to help you get around. So Google Maps also integrates information such as walking paths, ferry lines, building outlines, park boundaries, university campuses and more—providing a richer, more comprehensive and more realistic experience for locals, visitors and armchair travelers alike.
Our new map of Spain, for example, not only shows the famous Museo del Prado and Parque del Retiro in Madrid, but also includes additional building models in surrounding neighborhoods, the well-known "Estanque" (or pond) in the center of the park, and detailed walking paths throughout both the park and the nearby Royal Botanical Gardens.
Of course, the world is always changing, and we want Google Maps to change with it. So when you notice something on the map that needs updating, let us know through the simple "Report a problem" tool in the lower right corner of the map. We'll make the appropriate changes to the map—often within just a few minutes or hours of reviewing and verifying your feedback! This tool launches today in the 10 places where we've updated our maps, and is already available in dozens of other countries around the world.
With today's release, the maps that we've built through our Ground Truth initiative are now available in a total of 40 countries worldwide. To see the progress we've made to date, take a look at the image below (click for a full-size version).
We hope today's launch of more comprehensive and accurate maps of Europe will help you explore amazing places from Barcelona and Budapest to Bratislava and beyond.
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