Google's Street View cameras get quality boost

Google street view image Image copyright Google
Image caption The new Street View cameras produce brighter images than the old ones

Google has redesigned its Street View camera system so that it can take clearer images and capture more data about shops and buildings.

The new hardware takes clearer panoramic photos, while two high definition cameras capture detailed images of shops and street signs.

Data such as shop opening hours can be spotted by machine-learning algorithms and included in search results.

It is the first major update to the Street View hardware in eight years.

Image copyright Google
Image caption The older cameras struggled with bright sunlight, and seams in the photos were often visible

Google said the improved cameras would produce brighter and more colourful images, with less-noticeable seams where the images had been "stitched together" to produce a 360-degree panorama.

It said it had captured images of more than 10 million miles of road, and more than 80 billion photos, since launching Street View, in 2007.

It has previously improved the quality of the cameras on its Street View vehicles, but the company told Wired that people were now asking "harder and deeper questions" such as "What's the name of the shop on the corner?"

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Then: A Street View car in Amsterdam, 2008
Image copyright Google
Image caption Now: The new system is more compact

While the old Street View cars used 15 cameras to capture panoramic images, the new vehicles will use just seven.

The cars are also equipped with a laser radar system to help judge depth.

Image copyright Google

"This upgrade is important because of the pace of change in technology," Chris Green, technology analyst at the consultancy Lewis, told the BBC.

"People are increasingly using tools like Street View to find out exactly where places are and what a place looks like to find their way.

"People want more clarity. Broadband speeds are improving and people expect a more high-definition experience."

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