This video, now circulating online, brings Google Street View to life. In it, office equipment and toys come to life at night, watching wistfully as the computer screen takes them on a virtual journey.
People have studied the potential of virtual reality and interactive mapping for years (here's a paper on using the World Wide Web — back when they called it that — as a mapping tool). It would be used for urban planning, people speculated, or for design, for virtual travel. But with Google opening up mapping to the general public and using a Wikipedia-like format to translate geography to computer screens and 3D models, what becomes of accuracy? Just how close to reality is that virtual tour the toys take?
Through programs like Google Map Maker and the Model Your Town contest — now in its second year running — the general public is given the opportunity to depict places in as much detail as they choose.
Fellow contributors to Google Map Maker might fact-check additions to local maps, much like Wikipedia users moderate information added to the pages. But then, Wikipedia is not considered a reputable source for academic research, for example. So how can modern maps reach the level of detail Google Maps attains without losing their credibility? If navigation maps were intended to help people find their way, interactive maps are in danger of getting us lost in virtual reality.