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Google Maps 101 how we map the world

Google Maps 101 how we map the world

google maps 101 how

The world is a beautiful, messy. Constantly changing place roads are added. Buildings are built. And new businesses are opened all the time. Our role on the Google Maps team is to accurately model. And reflect this ever-evolving world, and we’re often asked how we make a map that does that. The answer is. It takes a number of different steps. And the right mix of people, techniques and technology.

In a series of posts over the coming months. We’ll give you a closer look at how we build our map diving deep into each of the elements we use to help more than one billion people navigate. Explore and get things done. Today. We’ll start with an overview of the basics.

google maps 101 how

It all starts with imagery

b)Google Maps 101 how we map the world 

Street View and satellite imagery have long been an important part of how we’re able to identify where places are in the world it shows us where roadways, buildings, addresses and businesses are located in a region. In addition to other important details such as the town’s speed limits or business names. In 2007. Street View launched to help people virtually explore the entire world, from the depths of Antarctica to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro. In the 12 years since then. Our Street View car and trekker operations have collected more than 170 billion images from 87 countries. Thanks to our newest trekker that is equipped with higher-resolution sensors and increased aperture. We’ve significantly improved the quality of imagery we capture. 

A Street View trekker

Then you add data

Authoritative data brings the map to life. Our data comes from more than 1,000 third-party sources from all over the world. Some. Like the United States Geological Survey (USGS) and the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (INEGI) in Mexico. Provide information about an entire country. Others are specific to smaller regions. Like data from a local municipality. An NGO or a housing developer. Our teams carefully vet every authoritative data source to ensure that we have the most accurate and up-to-date data available. And recently, we introduced a new tool to make it easier for local governments to upload data about new roads. And addresses in their area. Right to Google Maps. 

google maps 101 how

Road outlines from one of our data partners, the National Institute of Statistics and Geography.

A human touch 

Data and imagery are key components of mapmaking, but they’re static and can’t always keep up with the pace of how quickly the world changes. This brings us to the third piece: the people that help us tie everything together. We have a data operations team staffed all over the world that plays a role in just about every aspect of mapmaking. From gathering Street View images and vetting authoritative data sources to correcting the map for inaccuracies and training machine learning models (more on that in a second).

c)Google Maps 101 how we map the world 

We also have our community of Local Guides and Google Maps users, whom we empower to correct the map via the Send Feedback button in Google Maps. Our team reviews the information and publishes it if we have a high degree of confidence that it matches the roads. Businesses and addresses in the real world.

google maps 101 how

Our data operations team at work

Speeding things up with machine learning 

Imagery, authoritative data and human input have gotten us to where we are, but we want to make our maps more useful to more people even faster. To increase the speed of our mapping. We turn to machine learning. Machine learning allows our team to automate our mapping processes, while maintaining high levels of accuracy.

d)Google Maps 101 how we map the world

Let’s look at how we map building outlines as an example. Previously, an algorithm that tried to guess whether part of an image was a building or not resulted in what we dubbed “fuzzy buildings” amorphous blobs that didn’t look like real buildings when you draw them on a map. And this was an issue—buildings are more than just buildings they’re landmarks. And a key part of how someone knows where they are when looking at a map. To fix this, we worked with our data operations team to trace common building outlines manually. And then used this information to teach our machine learning algorithms which images correspond with building edges and shapes. This technique proved effective, enabling us to map as many buildings in one year as we mapped in the previous 10. 

google maps 101 how

Fuzzy building outlines on Google Maps.

google maps 101 how

Clear building polygons outlined on the map.

We’re in it for the long haul 

Maps are critical to helping communities thrive. They connect people with each other, help grow economies as people discover new businesses and restaurants. Although we’ve come a long way. With maps in more than 220 countries and territories to date. We know that our work is far from over. Different regions have different needs. And their own mapping challenges. In our next post. We’ll take a closer look at how one component—imagery helps us overcome these challenges.

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ce’ll give you a closer look at how we build our map diving deep into each of the elements we use to help more than one billion people navigate.

dIn addition to other important details such as the town’s speed limits or business names.

eIn the 12 years since then. Our Street View car and trekker operations have collected more than 170 billion images from 87 countries. fThanks to ourthat is equipped with higher-resolution sensors and increased aperture. We’ve significantly improved the quality of imagery we capture. 

eIn the 12 years since then. Our Street View car and trekker operations have collected more than 170 billion images from 87 countries. fThanks to ourthat is equipped with higher-resolution sensors and increased aperture.

xWe’ll give you a closer look at how we build our map diving deep into each of the elements we use to help more than one billion people navigate.

yWe’ll give you a closer look at how we build our map diving deep into each of the elements we use to help more than one billion people navigate.

zWe’ll give you a closer look at how we build our map diving deep into each of the elements we use to help more than one billion people navigate.

fWe’ll give you a closer look at how we build our map diving deep into each of the elements we use to help more than one billion people navigate.

hfWe’ll give you a closer look at how we build our map diving deep into each of the elements we use to help more than one billion people navigate.

Google Maps 101 how imagery powers our map

Google Maps 101 how imagery powers our map

Earlier this year, we gave you a look at how Google Maps maps the world. Today, we’ll dive deeper into a main ingredient of the map making process imagery. And how it powers one of our most popular features.

More than just pictures

When you think of imagery and Google Maps. You probably think of the Street View cars and trekkers that collect billions of images from all around the world. Today. We’ve captured more than 10 million miles of Street View imagery a distance that could circle the globe more than 400 times!

Or your thoughts may jump to Google Earth. Our platform that lets you browse more than 36 million square miles of high definition satellite images from various providers covering more than 98% of the entire population to see the world from above. While these stunning photos show us parts of the world we may never get a chance to visit. They also help Google Maps accurately model a world that is changing each day. 

google maps 101

How global Street View coverage has increased since 2007

How we collect imagery: cars, trekkers, flocks of sheep and laser beams

Gathering imagery is no small task. It can take anywhere from days to weeks, and requires a fleet of Street View cars, each equipped with nine cameras that capture high-definition imagery from every vantage point possible. These cameras are athermal. Meaning that they’re designed to handle extreme temperatures without changing focus so they can function in a range of environments from Death Valley during the peak of the summer to the snowy mountains of Nepal in the winter. Each Street View car includes its own photo processing center and lidar sensors that use laser beams to accurately measure distance.

Google Maps 101 how imagery powers our map

There’s also the Street View trekker, a backpack that collects imagery from places where driving isn’t possible. These trekkers are carried by boats, sheepcamels, and even scout troops to gather high quality photos from multiple angles, often in some of the hardest-to-map places around the world. In 2019 alone. Street View images from the. Google Maps community have helped us assign addresses to nearly seven million buildings in previously under-mapped places like Armenia. Bermuda. Lebanon. Myanmar. Tonga. Zanzibar and Zimbabwe.

google maps 101

a)Buildings mapped in Bermuda

google maps 101

b)Buildings mapped in Zimbabwe

google maps 101

c)Buildings mapped in Myanmar

How we process imagery: a vintage technique made new

Once we’ve collected photos. We use a technique called photogrammetry to align and stitch together a single set of images. These images show us critically important details about an area things like roads. Lane markings, buildings and rivers. Along with the precise distance between each of these objects. All of this information is gathered without ever needing to set foot in the location itself. 

Photogrammetry is not new. While it originated in the early 1900s, Google’s approach is unique in that it utilizes billions of images. Similar to putting a giant jigsaw puzzle together that spans the entire globe. By refining our photogrammetry technique over the last 10 years, we’re now able to align imagery from multiple sources Street View. aerial. And satellite imagery. Along with authoritative datasets–with accuracy down to the meter.

Google Maps 101 how imagery powers our map

A 3D model of the Arc de Triomphe created using photogrammetry with Street View and aerial imagery

How Google Maps uses imagery: (hint – it’s everywhere)

Photos are great, but how are they useful for someone using Google Maps?. Well. Imagery is woven into every product that Maps provides. 

Live View, for example, is a tool that uses augmented reality to show you which way to walk, with large arrows. And directions overlaid on top of walking navigation. For Live View to work. Google Maps needs to know two things:. where your phone is located. And where this location is relative to the rest of your surroundings. Live View requires orientation precision down to just a few degrees, which simply isn’t possible using traditional tools like GPS signals. Being off by a short distance is fine when you’re driving. But this discrepancy can actually point you in the entirely wrong direction when you’re traveling on foot!

This is where imagery comes in. To see the most precise location possible.

Live View uses a new technology invented at. Google called global localization that matches up tens of billions of Street View images with what is on your phone to help you identify where you are and which way you should go.

google maps 101

Live View matches live imagery against tens of billions of Street View images

What’s next 

The idea of Street View started as a side project more than 12 years ago as part of a lofty goal to map the entire world. Since then. Street View combined with satellite and aerial imagery has become the foundation of our entire map making process and the reason why we can build useful products that people turn to every single day. Mapmaking is never done. And we’re constantly working to build new tools and techniques to make imagery collection faster. more accurate and safer for everyone. 

Join us for our next deep dive in the series to learn more about how we work to create a more useful. Up-to-date map.

Google Maps 101 how imagery powers our map.

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Google Maps 101 how imagery powers our map

eEarlier this year, we gave you a look at how Google Maps maps the world.

fMore than just pictures

gWhen you think of imagery and Google Maps.

hMeaning that they’re designed to handle extreme temperatures without changing focus so they can function in a range of environments from Death Valley during the peak of the summer to the snowy mountains of Nepal in the winter.

iThere’s also the Street View trekker, a backpack that collects imagery from places where driving isn’t possible.

jOur platform that lets you browse more than 36 million square miles of high definition satellite images from various providers covering more than 98% of the entire population to see the world from above. While these stunning photos show us parts of the world we may never get a chance to visit. They also help Google Maps accurately model a world that is changing each day. 

hMeaning that they’re designed to handle extreme temperatures without changing focus so they can function in a range of environments from Death Valley during the peak of the summer to the snowy mountains of Nepal in the winter.

iThere’s also the Street View trekker, a backpack that collects imagery from places where driving isn’t possible.

jOur platform that lets you browse more than 36 million square miles of high definition satellite images from various providers covering more than 98% of the entire population to see the world from above. While these stunning photos show us parts of the world we may never get a chance to visit. They also help Google Maps accurately model a world that is changing each day. 

hMeaning that they’re designed to handle extreme temperatures without changing focus so they can function in a range of environments from Death Valley during the peak of the summer to the snowy mountains of Nepal in the winter.

iThere’s also the Street View trekker, a backpack that collects imagery from places where driving isn’t possible.

jOur platform that lets you browse more than 36 million square miles of high definition satellite images from various providers covering more than 98% of the entire population to see the world from above. While these stunning photos show us parts of the world we may never get a chance to visit. They also help Google Maps accurately model a world that is changing each day. 

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