Street View goes to Uluru (Ayers Rock)

Google recently posted on their blog an article saying they have recently released Street View of the iconic Uluru, also known as Ayers Rock, Australia.

However, on closer inspection it appears they have not released the imagery via the traditional Street View channels – Google Earth and Google Maps – but rather on a platform called ‘Story Spheres’ which integrates Street View-like photospheres with sound clips. The only Street View on Google Maps we could find is dated 2015 and does not appear to include all the locations found on Story Spheres.

We found Story Spheres to be difficult to navigate because it doesn’t include any maps and the panoramas take a long time to load when you navigate between them – even though we have a relatively fast internet connection. Also, on each navigation, it repeats the same audio instructions, which gets tedious fairly quickly.

Although we do think that having audio clips integrated into Street View is a great idea (and Google is almost certainly not the first to implement it), we think it is highly unlikely we will see such a feature integrated into either Google Maps Street View or the new web-based Google Earth any time soon. Allowing the general public to anonymously upload audio clips would create a nightmare for Google should they try to censor the content for appropriateness. So, they would almost certainly be restricted to only allowing a small number of approved content providers. This would mean that there would be a very limited amount of content worldwide and justifying building the feature into Google Maps or Google Earth for a small amount of content would be difficult. Luckily, Google Earth allows for audio in placemarks and tours which means it is technically possible to build something very similar already using a Google Earth tour. What we need is better tools for tour creation to encourage more people to create content.

Although Google has not yet gathered 3D imagery for Uluru, it does have high resolution altitude data and so looks quite impressive in Google Earth.

About Timothy Whitehead

Timothy has been using Google Earth since 2004 when it was still called Keyhole before it was renamed Google Earth in 2005 and has been a huge fan ever since. He is a programmer working for Red Wing Aerobatx and lives in Cape Town, South Africa.


  1. I agree the crowd-sourced audio is problematic.

    Capturing the “ambient” sound of a location as the Street View cameras (car & trekker) pass through would be an awesome project, extremely complex, and therefore very Google-worthy.

    Removing car engine and trekker footstep noise, remove discernible human conversations, but still provide the general sense of the soundscape in the location at the time the imagery is captured. The privacy concerns would be insurmountable.

    But could be a good AI machine learning problem right up Google’s alley!

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