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DIY Google Street View Project? 106

Ismenio writes "Does anyone have any ideas for a do-it-yourself Google-Street-View-like project on the cheap? I am planning to visit a few places outside the US that are important to me, and would like to be able to set up a site for friends and family to visit and give them the Street View-like experience so that they could navigate, pan and zoom in the areas I have. Though being able to use GPS coordinates would be great, that's certainly something I can do without. I know I can take pictures and stitch them together to create panoramic views, but I would like to be able to also navigate though some streets. Would it make sense to record it with an HD camera, then batch export frames as pictures? Is there any software in the open source community that I can use?" Ismenio includes links to some related pages: Popular Mechanics' look at the camera tech used for Street View, and a company that claims better panoramic image technology than Google's.
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DIY Google Street View Project?

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  • by cptdondo ( 59460 ) on Saturday May 16, 2009 @07:54PM (#27982825) Journal

    Basically, webcams suck for this. They get washed out and are basically worthless. Also the CPU required is prohibitive.

    IPcams, while better, have limited resolution.

    So you're really looking at using cameras run through libgphoto and some custom scripts. You need a lot of storage, and you need the right camera.

    It's doable with gphoto and a handful of Canon cameras, but be prepared to spend lots of $YOUR_LOCAL_CURRENCY.

    OTOH, if you get a travelcam going, I'd love to contribute; I haven't given up hope yet.

    If you look at rtrees, you can even look up the nearest landmark and tag your images with '2.3 miles southeast of $BIG_BEAUTIFUL_LANDMARK.

    • by citizenr ( 871508 ) on Saturday May 16, 2009 @08:24PM (#27982993) Homepage

      It's doable with gphoto

      for canons : []
      others []

    • Why not do a Mashup? (Score:4, Informative)

      by telchine ( 719345 ) * on Saturday May 16, 2009 @08:40PM (#27983101)

      Why bother reinventing the wheel? Google has already done the hard work for you.

      Just record your GPS co-ordinates as you travel and then you can do a Google Maps mashup afterwards and people can track your movements through Streetview.

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      try an elphel.

    • by Jyms ( 598745 )
      I had a student work on this last year. He mounted some CCTV cameras on the roof of his car and stitched the resulting videos together. Not sure if you want to drive around with a PC on your back seat. He tried all sorts of Web and IP cameras, but found that the CCTV cameras worked best because the capture card took the load of the CPU and it was easier to synchronize frames. Unfortunately he could not find a capture card for a laptop, so he had to uses a PC.
      The process worked like this:
      Extract fram
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by rs79 ( 71822 )

      We did this in the early ninties. We used a 3CCD pro camcorder and videotaped streets of Toronto, mostly Yorkdale, Kensington, Bloor village and the Danforth. We just walked along, stopped in front of every address and took some stable footage. Then we went home and frame grabbed the best scene for every address.

      I swear it takes more time to talk about it than to actually do it.

      These days my feeling is anything but the cheapest cel phone wouold work and can't say I really understand the question.

      Have you tr

    • OTOH, if you get a travelcam going, I'd love to contribute; I haven't given up hope yet.

      What I'm really interested in this technology for is creating racing courses for simulators. I would really love to scan Highway 17, Highway 9, and some other similar roads... There's also a lot of BLM land around here with roads that would make amazing rally courses. This is a market Google might consider getting into. Presumably once they image the whole world they'll do it again at higher resolution :D

  • by wjh31 ( 1372867 ) on Saturday May 16, 2009 @07:54PM (#27982827) Homepage
    A fisheye lens. if not you can get by with a little patience.

    stitching software
    virtual tour software
    i dont use fisheye, opting for more images for higher resolution pictures. But for the later two, i use and highly recomend autopano pro ( and its virtual tour software that is integrated with the giga version. The stitch imports images and combines them together into one image. The tour provides a simple way to combine the images into a set of 360x180 views, with hot-points between them to navigate, all automaitcally put together into a swf for easy embedding. if you dont mind a few watermarks, you can use the trial version with very few restrictions.

    for an example of a high reosution virtual tour created by the stitching software, tyhough without the tour software, i have created a tour of cambridge at [] . for other examples and examples of the touring software, check the gallery subforum in the autopano pro forums.
    • by wjh31 ( 1372867 ) on Saturday May 16, 2009 @07:57PM (#27982849) Homepage
      oh and regarding using a HD camera, for the sort of resolution you normally get (e.g c.f streetview) it is perfectly feesible to extract frames from a video, and stitch those together, i have experimented with it a little but its not something i use. It would be a good alternative to using a fisheye lens if you dont have patience to replace it with. Finally, you will probably want to look up about the no paralax point (NPP)
    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 16, 2009 @09:31PM (#27983447)

      You'll definitely need a panoramic head, using your tripod head will cause parallax problems: cheap - the Panosaurus, expensive: 360Precision.

      The most common lenses for panoramic photography are the Sigma 8mm and the Nikkor 10.5mm, but there's also a Sigma 10mm fisheye.

      You can also use your rectilinear kit lens. Check out the VRwave Panoramic Lens Database [] to find out how many pictures you need for a full 360x180 pano.

      Use PTGui or (the free) Hugin to stitch the pics, with manual controls, or Autopano, for (mostly) automatic stitching.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        The quick option would be a "one shot lens" (which is actually a mirror). The quality isn't great, but is the fastest way to shoot a pano.

    • by mikael ( 484 )

      Nikon Coolpix has a []

      You would have to take three or four pictures at different directions to get a complete coverage (sky view + three compass directions = tetrahedral arrangement).

      • by Chyeld ( 713439 )

        Nikon Coolpix has a fisheye lens option [] for less than $100.

        You would have to take three or four pictures at different directions to get a complete coverage (sky view + three compass directions = tetrahedral arrangement).

        Wow an opportunity for a completely legitimate non-sarcastic FTFY. Glee.

        • by mikael ( 484 )

          There is a patent on the use of just two fisheye pictures taken back to back - it belongs to a property agency of all companies; apparently they patented the process of taking two pictures to create a virtual tour of a home. The fisheye lens came with a small utility to create a panoramic view from two such fisheye lens pictures along with the necessary license. However, at the fringes of each picture the blue light tends to bleed more than the red or green, so one or two extra pictures help to average that

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by end3rtm ( 894520 )
      Use a DSLR camera with a high resolution. Attach a VR Lens module so that you can go to any one location and take ONE picture for the full 360 degree coverage: Kaidan 360 One VR (, BugEyeDigital One Shot, etc. There are various kinds. Use a good steady tripod that'll let you tilt the camera all the way. Best if it has a built in leveler. I'm not sure about how to interconnect them though. I would just get a copy of a overhead map (Google, Y
  • Microsoft Photosynth (Score:4, Informative)

    by pgn674 ( 995941 ) on Saturday May 16, 2009 @08:04PM (#27982877) Homepage
    Take a look at Microsoft Photosynth []. I don't know if it would be able to handle long, multiple streets, but if you take enough overlapping photos, it might work well for you.
    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      How fucking dare you recomend a Microsoft project. You should be shot. SHOT. ARE YOU A TERRORIST???
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by JWSmythe ( 446288 )

      I've tried photosynth for several different things, just to play with it. Of course, I have to use it from a Windows machine, so my Linux machine is out.

      I recently took a panorama of photos of a friends pool area, where she has flowers around the whole thing (like a freakin' garden, just just the occasional flower). Here's the photosynth [].

      I tried to follow their guidelines for "best practices". Every frame overlapped. From all four corners, I shot 180 degrees. I overlappe

      • Sorry about replying to myself. For the GPS transmission, I had found a tornado hunter group who had a nice little piece of software that they used to track themselves. It uploaded a very small flat file to an FTP server (or HTTP post, if I remember right), containing my current GPS information. I don't remember the name of the software off hand, and I wiped my laptop a while back, so I simply don't have it. You may be able to find it if you google for that information. I don't know th

      • by pgn674 ( 995941 )
        Yeah, I've noticed that Photosynth view is sometimes very reluctant or sluggish to give you a higher resolution. In a single synth, there will usually be some photos that get highest resolution right away, and others that will never ever go higher than a blurry blurb.

        One time, on a certain photo, I noticed that if I resized the browser window to be a little smaller than full screen, the photo became instantly clear. But, as soon as I moved the window size bigger than some threshold, it went blurry again. T
    • Actually Photosynth started off as a PhD project called Photo Tourism []. You can download the source code of Bundler [] (GPL license) as well. The idea of using geo-tagged photos to create a 3D view of the world is really cool. However there are various challenges: occlusion, moving objects (people, foliage, ...), changing illumination, different cameras, cameras with distortion. The software needs to be robust and discard those "outliers".

      SceneLib [] is a software for simultaneous localisation and mapping (SLAM) w

  • by mikael_j ( 106439 ) on Saturday May 16, 2009 @08:06PM (#27982885)

    I doubt it would be worth the effort to create a google street-view clone for your own personal use, you'd either have to carry around a set of cameras the whole time or stay in your car (with the camera(s) mounted on the car).

    Personally I've built a small website that shows images I've uploaded from my iPhone using Google Maps, a pretty simple solution that doesn't require a lot of expensive equipment nor a very advanced software setup (on the server it's just apache+mod_python+mysql and a couple of small python scripts for creating thumbnails of the uploaded images.


    • I did a drive from Florida to Los Angeles (the length of I-10, plus a little), with a webcam running the whole time. When I had cell service, it was uploading the frames as fast as it could to my web server for friends and family to see. I stored all the frames locally too. At the time, I used a Nextel Im1100 wireless card, that was pathetic at best. It was the best thing I could get at the time, but it was terrible.

      I then took the whole drive, and consolidated it into a 5

      • I then took the whole drive, and consolidated it into a 5 minute video, compressing 2500 miles driven in 2.5 days. Not bad reducing it down to 8.3% of the original drive time.

        You drove 2500 miles in 60 minutes!? And I thought I drove fast.

  • Obvious (Score:5, Funny)

    by adolf ( 21054 ) <> on Saturday May 16, 2009 @08:07PM (#27982887) Journal

    I know I'll be modded down for this, but it seems that the best, most efficient, and cheapest answer to this problem is as follows:

    If you feel so strongly abotu sharing your vacation with people you know, then take some of them with you.

    And then, gasp, instead of spending huge piles of money so that you can occupy your vacation fucking with technology that nobody wants to use anyway (Hey, Martha! Look! George sent more pictures of the LOVELY GREAT FUCKING TIME HE'S HAVING over there! Start the fire!), you'll be able to take a few folks who might actually be interested in this stuff along with you.

    Just a thought.

    (And: To answer the original question of, "Can I do this?" No. No, you can't. Don't bother. Give up.)

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Moreover, what exactly is the OP looking to accomplish that can't be accomplished by sending a link to google showing where he's been.
      It's not like the streets are going to look different just because you walked on them.

    • And: To answer the original question of, "Can I do this?" No. No, you can't. Don't bother. Give up.

      Hand over the geek card, the correct answer as always is, "yes but its just fucking hard, you could"
      1)list of options that don't entirely fit the needs, but would provide a close match
      2)instructions on how to which opensource software to patch together to provide exactly what is needed (presumably patching is done in a series of bash/perl/python scripts)

      Just because your too lazy to mess around with technology doesn't mean everybody on slashdot is, he was hoping for some pointers/software to use and AFAIC

      • by adolf ( 21054 )

        I gave him pointers. And I told him his idea was bogus, which it is. (This, of course, is based on the assumption that the man would like to actually, yaknow, vacation while on vacation, instead of fuck with prototype tech the whole time.)

        You can have my geek card when you pry it from my cold, dead fingers.

      • by ksheff ( 2406 )

        But you also don't want the situation where you spend so much time trying to deal with the equipment used to record the trip, that you fail to enjoy the trip yourself. It's too bad many of the 'sunglasses with a video camera above the nose piece' solutions probably aren't worth a damn and look dorky to boot. You could have it take photos at regular intervals, combine it into a little movie, and your friends/family could see the same stuff you did on the trip - with the cleavage shots and bathroom breaks e

    • This is 100% the best answer by far.
    • Here they seem to like the stupid bullshit answers.

  • by Anpheus ( 908711 ) on Saturday May 16, 2009 @08:07PM (#27982891)

    WAIT! Don't mod me down yet.

    There's this free software called Photosynth that gives a very similar experience. It stitches together large numbers of photographs to create a scene through which a user can move.

    They can all be interconnected, or it could be just, "my hotel room" and "famous landmark A" and "famous landmark B." If you take enough pictures on the way to each location, it should be able to figure that out.

    Other than that, software projects like photosynth and google street view are massive undertakings and require a great deal of understanding of mathematics, geometry, pattern matching and some terrific coding skills. You likely will not find many alternatives, and something "homebrew" probably won't compete unless you're going to start coding now.

  • Not exactly cheap, but it might work.

    • by Shag ( 3737 )

      Not exactly cheap, but it might work.

      Not exactly expensive either. Some digital cameras come with bundled software (e.g. Canon PhotoStitch) that can spit out QTVR files, and after some digging in Google and on Apple's site to see what has replaced the old "QuickTime VR Authoring Studio" from Apple, I managed to find Apple's QTVR tools page [], with a link to ClickHere Design's Cubic Connector [] for a whopping $79.

      If I get sufficiently bored at any point in the near future, I think I'll grab that program and start making virtual tours of all kinds

      • Interesting. Last time I checked, QTVR required the use of a rather expensive panoramic head to work well. It seems that this is no longer the case, which makes it a pretty viable option, I think.

        Thanks for doing the research I should have done before I posted.

        • by Shag ( 3737 )

          Well, an expensive panoramic head never HURTS, that's for sure. And even with one, you're susceptible to things moving across the field of view.

          But if somebody wants to go low-budget and just make something for their friends or family or whatever, it looks like they can.

  • by That's Unpossible! ( 722232 ) on Saturday May 16, 2009 @08:27PM (#27983013)

    Purchase a GPS logger, carry it with you everywhere while you take pictures. Or even better, buy/rent a camera with GPS built in.

    Next, upload your photos into Microsoft Photosynth. []

    I've seen demos where it can synthesize multiple photos based on GPS data, and present them in a mapping mode where you can 'walk down the street' using your photos, and other people's photos from the area. Not sure what capabilities have been released in this regard, yet, to the general public.

  • My project (Score:2, Informative)

    I used the panosaurus panorama head to take panorama pictures of Red Cross Nordic United World College. [] []

    It turned out pretty well.
  • Photosynth (Score:5, Informative)

    by nick_davison ( 217681 ) on Saturday May 16, 2009 @08:42PM (#27983113)

    You may want to take a look at Microsoft's Photosynth (usual Microsoft bashing, what about Linux and Mac, I don't want to install silverlight, etc. aside).

    What you'll generally find though is that either:

    a) You don't shoot enough coverage.
    b) You shoot too damn much and it takes forever to upload.

    Say you're used to DSLRs. You probably shoot about a 20-30 degree field of coverage at 10mp whenever something interesting comes up.

    Your choice is either to shoot as wide as you can... In which case you won't have the detail you're used to when you zoom in on something interesting, leaving it an unidentifiable blur... Or you can take 36 overlapping shots at 10 degree intervals followed by a bunch of vertical passes - but then you're talking 50-100 x 10MP images to upload for every point you shoot from and it takes you half an hour to capture each of them.

    Google goes with so low res it'd suck for trying to show people the details of a cool cathedral or whatever else. It's great for figuring out where you are but little more than that. You could shoot 8-10 very wide angle images (14mm lenses on a full frame sensor, etc.) which would get your numbers of files down in exchange for less detail. Still...

    Street view takes a picture every 50 feet or so. Simple coverage of say a cathedral will still have you taking about 20 points inside and the same outside.

    Even at 8-10 images per location, that's still a couple of hundred... and a few thousand if you want detailed ones. All at say 10MP... That's gigs upon gigs of data to upload, while away (or store on many memory cards) and hours spent doing it... For a single building you want people to be able to truly explore with you.

    Or, of course, you just take a few wide shots from a few locations... Photosynth is great for that. But, afterwards, you realize you missed dozens of angles and people can't see that really cool X you remember.

  • Openstreetview (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 16, 2009 @08:45PM (#27983129)

    Have a look at this project: []

    The map data is from the Openstreetmap [] Project.
    There's also a discussion going on about openstreetview in the talk mailing list of OSM. []

  • by jo42 ( 227475 ) on Saturday May 16, 2009 @08:45PM (#27983137) Homepage

    There is this new fangled thing called a "video camera". It takes moving pictures. You can also record a "voice over" describing what you are seeing. I understand that there are even "video cameras" that shoot in "High Definition" and record to something called a "hard disk". Apparently you can even upload your moving pictures, or "videos", to some web site called "YouTube". Try it, you might like it.

    • by MikeURL ( 890801 )
      I had to scroll down a ways to find this. I'm not sure what is going on with this question. Is the person asking for this solution SO Google-centric that he wants to go from an ideal solution (video) to a less ideal solution (streetview)?

      Granted you can't easily record GPS on the fly into video but you can, as you noted, SAY where you are in the video. And the video itself certainly could be tagged with the general GPS coordinates. If you think about streetview it is actually a low res compromise bec
    • by Snaller ( 147050 )

      Why don't you stupid kids just shut up with your idiot comments.

  • Enjoying your visit and take pictures of interesting things along the way. Trust me, those will boring enough to everyone else who wasn't there with you.
  • Be careful (Score:5, Insightful)

    by e9th ( 652576 ) <> on Saturday May 16, 2009 @09:06PM (#27983291)
    You didn't say what countries you'll be visiting, but you should check with the locals before you do much photography. Even where not strictly illegal, you might find yourself answering some pointed questions if the cops see you taking panoramic views of anything even remotely "sensitive".
    • Especially with the GPS data included. And without googles legal team standing by to bail them out.
      • by e9th ( 652576 )
        I forgot about the GPS.
        Let's see, you, a non-citizen, are standing in the street in front of your friend's house on the Elbonian equivalent of Elm Street, with a high-tech camera and a GPS device. Meanwhile, that nondescript building a block away is the People's Ministry of Anthrax...
  • You could look at some 360 panoramic lenses like the ones here: [] []

    Otherwise, you'll be taking lots of photos to have to stitch together.

  • OpenViewProject (Score:5, Informative)

    by Skinkie ( 815924 ) on Saturday May 16, 2009 @11:36PM (#27984045) Homepage
    OpenViewProject [] basically gives you the DIY stuff. At OpenStreetMap we started the OpenStreetPhoto [] project but that deviated a bit to the creation of area photography and the analysis of existing photos and tagging them with metadata.
  • Lots of work, holidays are not supposed to be about work.

    How about this idea instead - setup a blog, and each day post JUST ONE photo which tells a story about that one day. Annotate with where you are, who you are with, and why you thought this photo said it.

    If any of my friends was doing that, you can bet I'd add it to my feed reader.

    Holiday photos are about stories and experience, not places. Without you to tell the story, the photos no matter how beautiful, could be taken by anybody, it's meaningless.

  • I have recently started doing something very similar with my DSLR and a GPS logger. Quick and dirty instructions:

    1. Get a digital camera (A camcorder that will export .exif data with JPEG snapshots will work as well) and sync the time with International Atomic Time. If you're not using a camcorder, make sure you have PC sync software to be able to time the shots.

    2. Get a fisheye lens or a 360 degree panoramic adapter.

    3. Buy a GPS logger. Configure it to track during the same time that you are capturin
  • Forgive the self-promotion, but CleVR [] sounds like the sort of thing that would help. It has a free photo stitcher and easy hosting of the virtual tour. It supports hotspots, so you can click to move between locations.

  • I understand women's shelters are a good place to focus on. Google apparently labours under the misapprehension that any half-decent stalker wouldn't be able to find out everything they want to know from a car, a fleeting glimpse of a sweater (Alt-Prt Scr), or a characteristic body-type/tattoo, so you might just as well make a real dog's breakfast of it and set up a camera outside a place like that and supply the GPS coordinates. didn't deserve that, but I the point needed to be made. I know

  • Free solutions (Score:2, Interesting)

    by dexotaku ( 1136235 )

    1. Pretty much any digital camera
    2. Hugin []

    That's pretty much all you need. If you want better precision, a spherical tripod head helps a great deal. The panosaurus is the least expensive you will likely find.

    Oh, plus
    3. Lots of patience.

    Have fun!
  • by Hurricane78 ( 562437 ) <deleted.slashdot@org> on Sunday May 17, 2009 @06:57AM (#27985755)

    Remember Myst? Well, you can make something like that right now.
    What you need is:
    - A lens or mirror that can make at least 180 images.
    - A panorama creation program.
    - A simple video camera.
    - A Quicktime VR creation tool.
    - A Java applet that can display Quicktime VR, including clickable zones.

    Basically you make enough (overlapping) images of each place, to create a panorama. Then you make short (accelerated) movies of the walk between those places.
    Now you create the panoramas, and with that tool, create clickable zones. In a house, you would make the doors, and perhaps the windows clickable. You know what I mean.
    Then you can simply link the clickables to the different movies, contained in Flash files. And you make the end of the Flash files automatically load the URL of the resulting panorama.
    If you really want to become fancy, you record loops of background audio, so people can heart them, and feel immersed.

    Do not forget to describe the feeling of the senses that you can't show that well. Describe how it smells, how it feels on your skin. How hot/cold/windy it is, etc.
    People are really good at building their own super-realistic fantasy out of this. I guarantee you, they will be impressed!

  • []

    Content production requires a GOOD mac..
    can be hand held or vehicle mounted....

    actually not as expensive as the multicam rigs of immersive media

  • A summer camp I worked at was using software called gigapan. Basically a tripod with a servo on it and some custom software to take a shit load of ~4MP pictures and stitch them together to create an extremely high resolution panorama.

    The CMU project page [] has more details, and the commercial arm of the project is here [].

    • You might want to look at Panaramio as well.. []

      Or these alternatives [] - ( GlobalMotion Media, Inc. develops applications that bring together the best of online, mobile and location-aware technologies. The company operates EveryTrail the leading online community for GPS trip sharing, and licenses its technology platform to corporate customers. GlobalMotion is located in Palo Alto, the heart of Silicon Valley ). [] - ( Track yours and you

  • Use [] - It's free and easy to use. It will synch your camera's pics to your gps track of your travels.
  • Why don't you talk to the KDE Marble team? []
    This way the entire world could benefit from this as Marble is cross-platform.

    Once you got the software in place, you could then also talk to the OpenStreetMap project. []

    Together with the two linked projects you could figure out a cheap setup that everyone could follow, so we can see more of this stuff happen and you could share your streetview with the rest of the world! :D

  • Google totally dumped the Immersive Media footage and the company itself from Street View when the camera quality and function would not perform as advertized. Immersive Media then used the Google name to run up their own stock price and cash in for the Immersive executives. Google refused to even speak to the Immersive Media CEO after repeated lies and the stock games came to light in June 2007. Between that and Canadian Privacy problems this company is now trying to dig for clean coal or something? and t

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