Google announced this week the release of over 44,00km worth of Street View images of the post-Tsunami Japan in the kind of documentation of a natural disaster not seen before.

As a Brisbane web designer it is exciting to see these kinds of large scale projects being rolled out, the kinds only capable by companies like Google. The announcement on the Google blog by Kei Kawai, the Senior Production Manager at Google Street View said the following, “A virtual tour via Street View profoundly illustrates how much these natural disasters have transformed these communities. If you start inland and venture out toward the coast, you’ll see the idyllic countryside change dramatically, becoming cluttered with mountains of rubble and debris as you get closer to the ocean. In the cities, buildings that once stood proud are now empty spaces.”

The company has also set up a designated website for the images called “Build the Memory” or “Memories for the Future” where users can toggle between before and after images of the tsunami affected areas. Google also used the occasion to roll-out a minor but useful feature- a timestamp on the bottom of all Street View images. The timestamp feature has obvious uses in tsunami-affected Japan but will also have a major impact for many other users; real estate agents or prospective property buyers for instance.

The way this web design allows users to see firsthand the results of these kinds of disasters in a model that is much more affecting and in-depth that 2D images or even video will certainly have an impact on the way future generations understand the past. It will no-doubt become a handy tool for many future historians, town planners, architects and many others as it provides an insight never before afforded.An instance where this kind of web design and imagery will certainly have concrete results is the Australian mapping website Nearmaps.com. During the Brisbane floods of early 2011, Nearmaps used its high resolution photographic mapping technology to photograph Brisbane at the peak of the floods and then released the maps to the public for free. They also provided a website for users to toggle between before and after images of some of the most startling areas. Having such a high-resolution accurate record of the 2011 Brisbane flood will surely help Brisbane City Planners in the future and will hopefully prevent a lot of the devastation that we experienced earlier this year.


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