Google isn’t the all-powerful Internet god we once thought it was. While taking street view pictures and videos all over the world, they encountered a small problem. Their street view cars couldn’t fit in many of the narrow streets of Belgium and other European nations. The solution to this small problem? A tiny car, the Toyota iQ, is getting geared up with a 360° camera, computers, and endless amounts of cables to finish Google’s street views of Belgium and hopefully all over Europe.
Developed by a company out of Belgium called Happiness Brussels, a communications and advertising agency, the car is called The Brick. The car functions much like the popular Smart Cars. Patrick Glorieux, the idea provider for Happiness Brussels, says they thought of the project after noticing that a huge selection of Belgium’s streets didn’t have a street view option on Google Maps.
The search engine king started recording Belgian streets last year. Google started experimenting with the street view project in 2007 and it quickly became a permanent feature of Google Maps. The Google cars are still working their way around the globe.
Once Happiness Brussels got Google’s blessing to work on their project, Glorieux says they had to find the perfect street view guy after contacting suppliers of street view cameras from Spain, Germany, and Holland. It was important to find the right equipment and people to run the project so the images come out with the same high quality Google produces. Then they designed and outfitted The Brick in Belgium and the programming features were done in a Vietman-based company called Bliss Interactive.
The next step was to collect a list of all streets in Belgium that haven’t been filmed yet. They employed a new form of Internet collaboration called Crowdsourcing in which users could help them locate each and every missed street. Using their website, iQStreetView.be, anyone can go in and tag streets or roadways that are missing from Google. So far users have tagged around 250 streets.
Glorieux wants Belgian residents to continue tagging any and all streets they find that are missing on Street Views. He says the most exciting part of this project is that they have no idea how many streets are still missing so they don’t know where the data will stop. Once all data is collected, Glorieux is going to provide this information to Google so they can see how to use it. Though the project isn’t affiliated with or being sponsored by the Internet giant, Google has acknowledged the creative prowess of the project and Glorieux says they insisted on finding the best crew in Europe since they’re handing over all their data to Google.
The Brick won’t retire to one of its tiny carports until the end of year at the soonest and the agency has encouraged citizens to continue locating missing streets. Happiness Brussels will continue compiling the data on their servers until they see no more new streets getting tagged.