Last updated on November 15th, 2015 at 12:08 pm

Google Goes back in Time

So, contrary to sci-fi predictions, the year 2000 has come and gone and we still haven’t invented time travel. And now that the original DeLorean is out of production, that target is becoming ever more distant – after all, who wants to go back in time in a Toyota Aygo? That’s right. Nobody.

So we haven’t yet got time travel covered, although that hasn’t stopped Google from coming up with next best thing (probably), with their snazzy new addition to Street View. Currently referred to simply as the ‘back in time’ function, this feature takes the form of an hourglass and slider which appear when using the service. When the slider appears, the user is able to select any date from 2007 onwards (the year Street View was launched), and view the area as it looked back then.

This feature is all down to the fact that Google is constantly updating its Street View imagery, with some well-known areas being updated as frequently as once a week. With such frequent updates, Google has been able to build up a great deal of archive photographs, which it is now putting back out there for use in the back in time feature.

So, who cares? Quite a lot of people, apparently – the ability to view archive footage was in fact one of the most requested features by users of Google Maps. And Google itself has pointed out many interesting uses of the new technology.

With new buildings, for instance, you’ll be able to witness a stage-by-stage view of the entire construction process. One example given by Google is New York’s Freedom Tower, which began construction in 2006 and can consequently be seen gradually rising above the city skyline in monthly intervals.

Google also point out the changes which can be seen after natural disasters, where buildings have been flattened or areas completely altered. Japan’s 2011 earthquake is a particularly devastating example of the use of this feature, where the ground actually moved a few metres and consequently the pictures ‘jump’ when viewed over time.

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Nevertheless, despite these fascinating uses, the likelihood is that most users won’t use them. They won’t watch the time-lapse construction of a building, or witness a housing estate gradually claim a field. No. What they’ll do instead is look up their house and see how it’s changed in the past 7 years. Just as Google Earth was primarily used to find out who on the street had a swimming pool, it seems that this new feature will be destined for equally trivial use. Still, at least it’ll provide a nice dose of nostalgia to see pictures of your old car parked in the driveway.

You can start using Google Back in Time by heading over to Google Maps now and hitting streetview.

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