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.