Can we see Penn on Google Maps?

Dear Benny:
Last summer a guy from Google rode a tricked-out tricycle through campus taking panoramic photos of the buildings for Google Maps. Are those images online yet?
—Freeze Frame

Dear Freeze:
You are right. Last June Google collaborated with Penn to collect ground-level images of campus for Google Maps’ “Street View” feature. Using a specially designed vehicle called the Street View Trike, a Google representative rolled around campus capturing the landscape. “Street View” allows users to browse through an immersive, street-level site, with the option of rotating the images 360 degrees and panning up and down 290 degrees.

To create a panoramic effect, Google essentially stitches together the pictures captured by their cameras, matching the images to a specific location using GPS devices. You’ll notice that faces and license plates on “Street View” are blurred. That is on purpose, to protect individuals’ privacy.

Google launched “Street View” in 2007. In the beginning, the images were collected by a van with a big camera on its roof. That evolved into cars driving through public roads in cities and towns and, most recently, the Street Trike.

At Penn, Google used the trike to get pictures of the University’s best known “off street” sites such as Locust and Hamilton walks and the BioPond.  In other locations, Google has used the trike to access hiking and biking trails as well as national parks. According to Google’s website, “Street View” images of cities, parks and college campuses are now available for “almost one dozen countries in North America, Europe and the Asia-Pacific region.”

Google Maps launched Penn’s “Street View” on Jan. 21. While some of the images are not fully functional yet, you can start your virtual stroll through campus by going to http://maps.google.com and typing in “University of Pennsylvania.”

Got a question for Benny? Send it via e-mail to current@pobox.upenn.edu or via regular mail to the Current, 200 Sansom Place East, 3600 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6106.

Originally published on February 4, 2010