Google Street View – Not Just a Pretty Face

New research from the University of Southampton shows that Google Street View may be more than just a tool to spy on your neighbours.

Researchers have been using images from the programme to assess the impacts of the tragic Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan in 2011. Following on-site investigations to assess damage and form future design guidelines, Google Street View cars were sent to the east coast of Honshu over a six-month period to photograph the area. Images were then compiled along with those taken before the tsunami to create a digital archive that allowed comparison of ‘before’ and ‘after’ images. Click here to see the images.


Photo: Google Street View

By identifying the material and form of structures that survived the tsunami, researchers were able to assess the impact of tsunami waves on different buildings. Although study co-author Dr Alan Bloodworth acknowledged that the use of such technology does not currently surpass field surveys in terms of quality, the technology has ‘the potential to exploit an untapped resource of researchers around the world, who can then collaborate with local engineers to learn lessons and improve tsunami resistance of vulnerable coastal communities.’

The research has been published in the Institution of Civil Engineers’ (ICE) journal ‘Civil Engineering’.

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