TIME technology

Google Street View Now Includes Time Lapse Feature

Google Maps Street View Time Lapse
Google released time lapse functionality within street view, allowing users to look back in time. Google

Seven years of Google Street View images are now available all at once

Since it launched in 2007, Google Street View has become the closest thing we have to a teleportation device. With a few keystrokes, you can go somewhere without actually going there, walking sidewalks in Paris one moment and poking into Mumbai shop windows the next.

But Google’s virtual map of the world has always been limited to the present — or at least the most recent images transmitted by its camera-equipped vehicles. Each time those vehicles captured a site, the new images would become searchable and the old ones were taken down and relegated to Google’s servers.

Now, Street View is trying to turn its teleportation device into a time machine. Starting today, all the Street View images taken over the last seven years will be viewable as part of a new feature that allows users to see how places have changed since Google began photographing the globe’s nooks and crannies. It happens in a whirl. Buildings that took years to construct magically appear in moments. Neighborhoods humming with life one year are wiped away by natural disasters the next. Billboards featuring flip phones suddenly show smartphones.

“Our original goal with Street View was to build a map that is useful, accurate and comprehensive,” says Vinay Shet, a Google product manager. “So we’ve been capturing all these snapshots, and we thought, let’s use all this data and create something that users will love, that will be exploratory, and hopefully will be useful.”

The time lapse feature will appear in a window within Street View, along with a bar users can manually toggle to change years. (It includes a substitute for Pegman, the little yellow guy users drag to launch Street View. On time lapse, your guide is an avatar that looks an awful lot like Dr. Brown from Back to the Future.)

There will also be double the number of Street View images that were previously accessible. Google Trekkers have driven more than 5 million miles in 50 countries since 2007 and have gone many places more than once, giving most locations at least one time-lapsed layer.

Google’s most engaging images often involve construction and destruction. One World Trade Center in New York City and Rio de Janeiro’s World Cup stadium rise in seconds, while areas affected by the Japanese tsunami become instantly obliterated.

“It’s only been seven years,” Shet says, “but it’s amazing how many interesting changes we’ve found.”

One World Trade Center, New York City
April 2009 – August 2013

Google

The construction of One World Trade Center began in 2006, but for the first few years most of the work was below-ground. Much of the above-ground construction took place right as Google began capturing it from Manhattan’s West Street.

Soumaya Museum, Mexico City
October 2010 – November 2011

Google

This Mexico City art museum was financed by Carlos Slim, the world’s richest man. The modern, showpiece structure was constructued in a little over a year.

The Howard Theatre, Washington, DC
July 2009 – May 2012

Google

The historic Howard Theatre, built in 1910, was in danger of closing a century later but underwent a massive $29 million renovation that began September 2010. It reopened in April 2012.

Marina Bay Sands Resort, Singapore
November 2008 – May 2013

Google

The hotel, considered the most expensive building in the world at $5.7 billion, includes three 55-story towers with more than 2,500 rooms. It opened in June 2010.

Graffiti on Bowery Street, New York City
June 2009 – August 2013

Google

The side of a building on Bowery Street in New York’s Lower East Side neighborhood that’s seen a steady rotation of street artists.

Naucalpan, Mexico
November 2008 – October 2013

Google

An overpass gets built over an existing street in Naucalpan, Mexico, just outside of Mexico City.

Brazil World Cup stadium, Fortaleza, Brazil
February 2012 – September 2013

Google

A soccer stadium slowly rises in Fortaleza, Brazil, one of the host cities for the 2014 FIFA World Cup.

 

TIME Pictures of the Week

Pictures of the Week: March 28 — April 4

From the shootings at Fort Hood to the Afghan elections, to Queen Elizabeth’s visit with Pope Francis and a camera savvy koala bear, TIME presents the best photos of the week.

 

TIME Soccer

How I Finally Got My Picture With Pelé

TIME's International Editor Bobby Ghosh with Pelé.
TIME's International Editor Bobby Ghosh, left, with Pelé. Javier Sirvent for TIME

This week, TIME International editor Bobby Ghosh stood for a photograph with the Brazilian soccer legend Pelé—a snap that both fulfilled a childhood dream and ended a journalist's longstanding frustration

Pelé, the soccer wizard, may have been the first famous person to enter my consciousness. I was just three years old in 1970, when his goals brought Brazil its third World Cup. My father, a soccer nut, had never seen Pelé play, but read enough about him to become a fan, and he passed that enthusiasm down to me. When I was old enough to kick a ball around, I scrawled ‘10’ — the number Pelé made famous — on the back of my T-shirt and tried to execute his patented bicycle kicks.

I never became the goal-scoring superstar of my own imagination, but when I started my career as a journalist it allowed me to invent a new fantasy: Someday, I told myself, I would meet my boyhood hero. Someday, I would shake hands with Pelé.

The opportunity came in 2002 when TIME sent me to Japan to cover the World Cup, my first major sports assignment. I knew Pelé was going to be there, in his capacity as a pitchman for a famous credit-card brand, and I made it my business to find him.

In the meantime, I got to meet, interview and generally hang out with my favorite players. And not just current (for the time) stars like Brazil’s Ronaldo and Argentina’s Gabriel Batistuta, but also stars of a previous era, like French genius Michele Platini and the German ‘Kaizer’ Franz Beckenbauer.

But as a newbie sports journalist, I was not entirely sure about the rules governing such encounters. Was I allowed to ask the players for their autographs or to have my picture taken with them? I decided, foolishly, that to ask would be to behave like a fan, and therefore unprofessional.

It was agonizing to deny myself the opportunity, and made worse by the fact that nobody else seemed to be following this rule. I would find myself chatting with Nigeria’s Jay-Jay Ococha, and a Nigerian journalist would come up and ask if I could shoot a picture of the two of them. I always complied, of course. But I never summoned the courage to ask for myself.

Things came to a head one night in Tokyo, at a grand party thrown by the makers of the official World Cup ball. Sure enough, Pelé was there, and to my delight he agreed to an interview on the spot. He was, true to everything I had read and heard about him, genial and charming. Just over his shoulder, a couple of feet away, Platini was deep in conversation with Beckenbauer. I felt honored just to be breathing the same air as the soccer aristocracy.

Then, a young Japanese kid came up: he could have been no more than 10 years old and he carried a camera half his size. He approached to Pelé and asked if he could take a picture. Once Pelé agreed, the kid went over to Platini and Beckenbauer and asked if they would stand alongside Pelé.

As the giants of the game lined up, I stepped out of the frame, to give the kid a nice shot of the troika. Then, just because he’s such a nice guy, Pelé reached out and grabbed my arm, and dragged me into the picture. “No, you must join us,” he said.

The kid shot a couple of frames, bowed and left.

I couldn’t believe my good luck: a picture of me with these three amazing players! But then a quandary arose in my mind. Should I run after the kid and get his contact details, so I could ask for the picture later? (Remember, this was 2002, before cellphone cameras.) Or should I take the opportunity to have a conversation with Pelé, Platini and Beckenbauer?

Naturally, I chose to stay and chat with my idols.

About half an hour later, I went looking for the kid. He was gone, and nobody could tell me who he was.

For over a decade, I have told friends the story of that picture: the one I would give almost anything for, but could never have. I imagined what the kid’s thoughts would be when he looked at it: “Pelé, Platini, Beckenbauer… but who the hell is THAT guy?”

I’ve kicked myself for my stupidity. And I’ve learned not to be so stupid: years later, when I interviewed Leo Messi, Sachin Tendulkar and Neymar, I made sure I got pictures taken with them.

But that picture, THAT picture… it would never be mine.

Life sometimes throws up consolations. Yesterday, Pelé came to the New York offices of TIME for a photoshoot. I badgered my colleague, Belinda Luscombe, to let me sit in on the shoot. When the chance arose, I told Pelé the story about that night in Tokyo, 12 years ago. He didn’t remember the incident — Why would he? — but since he remains a genial, charming man, he kindly indulged my request for a picture. And he signed a miniature soccer ball I happened to have in my office.

All that remains now is to cling to the hope that life (or Luscombe) will somehow engineer encounters with Platini and Beckenbauer. When that happens, I know I will not hesitate.

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