For nearly a month now, Google Street View has provided an innovative new way to procrastinate: digitally wandering the corridors and byways of our fair city. Google’s spokesperson was vague when asked why the company chose Miami in its initial launch of the program (the other two are New York and San Francisco): “The cities were chosen because they are major metropolitan areas that we believe are interesting to our users,” she said.
Google Street View, for those who haven't tried it out yet, allows users to descend from the bird's eye view of Google Earth to the street itself -- its apartments, cars, curtainless windows, stray pedestrians, dog-walkers, cyclists, and others who happen to get caught in its all-encompassing gaze. From the vantage point of the middle of the street, users can do a 360 degree turn, move down the street, take a left, etc. It's like The Matrix, basically.
While most of the major thoroughfares are covered, much of the city remains unmapped. On South Beach, Ocean Drive, Collins Avenue, and Alton Road are covered, but the island’s interior is only filled in around South Pointe. My apartment made the cut. Shades drawn, car nowhere to be seen, it appears I was out or at work at the time the mysterious photo takers trolled down the street. What looks like the drunk handyman who lives the building next door can be seen emerging from his apartment however, carrying a shopping bag.
In most cases the streets and highways are largely deserted, making one wonder at what time of day the photos were done. At New Times’ Biscayne Boulevard headquarters the parking lot is empty, indicating either a weekend, or sometime before 11 a.m. (Hah! Just kidding. Sort of.) Pulse Miami banners hanging from the streetlights would suggest the environs were photographed at a late November or early December date.
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Google’s spokesperson gave us another uninformative, e-mailed answer when we inquired for specifics. “The imagery in the Street View feature is provided by Google and a third party data provider. The imagery is gathered by vehicles driving public streets while equipped with imaging technology.” The third party data provider is a company called Immersive Media. Its employees drive around in cute Volkswagen Bugs equipped with an eleven-lensed camera affixed to the top. Looking out for such a vehicle may not spare you from the all-seeing Eye. Intrepid internet explorers have found another kind of car caught in window reflections. It may be a minivan.
For more good times on Streetview, a plethora of sites have compiled galleries of images gathered at Best of Streetview sites. Miami is not heavily featured on these sites, as our town was apparently shot with less megapixels than San Francisco and gets sort of blurry if you zoom in too close.
Perhaps it’s for the best – the following was found in a forum on City-data.com: “OMG! I just tried out the google street view for Miami, and it looks like a run down DUMP!! Maybe I happened to pick a crappy street? I dont know anything about Miami, but from what some of these streets look like, I sure wouldn't want to be walking or driving there alone!” --Emily Witt