If Google will only knows to get more users to its Google Maps, its to get Google Street View in the Philippines. With about 9 million Pinoys living overseas it may get that many more using it than any other Asian country.
Calling all voyeurs: Google Street View hits Thailand
By Richard S. Ehrlich 26 March, 2012
For the first time, Google is exposing gorgeous, hedonistic and possibly even embarrassing photos of people, beaches, entertainment zones, hotels, homes, temples and other scenes in Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Phuket via its Street View maps.
Anyone in the world can go online and, for free, gawk at Google’s pictures, which are “digitally stitched” together to offer a movable journey through Thailand’s three famous tourism hotspots — including countless shots of Thais and foreigners unaware they’ve been photographed.
Google hopes its newest Street View portal will emphasize the paradises and delights of Thailand, and lure more tourists to enjoy the lusciousness this Southeast Asian tropical land offers.
“We drove Phuket, Chiang Mai and Greater Bangkok and we got 95 percent of those areas, and have images that are 360-degree panoramas,” says David Marx, global communications and public affairs manager for Google Asia Pacific.
“Tourists within Thailand and outside of Thailand can use this as kind of a tool to plan their trips and to virtually explore Thailand.”
Red-light districts during the day? Not so flashy
Voyeurs hoping to recognize drunken men cavorting with bikini-clad women in red-light districts in Bangkok and elsewhere should realize Street View has limitations.
“Basically, when we worked with the Tourism Authority of Thailand before we even started driving, the objective for us was how are we going to use the technology we have for Street View to promote tourism and to find great images of Thailand to share with the rest of the world,” says Amy Kunrojpanya, head of communications and public affairs for Google in Thailand.
“There are some of the more colorful nightlife areas of Thailand. We are driving during the daytime, so I think that is probably one point as well, I would say, that helps. You get everyday life. You see the guys who are making fried chicken on the side of the road. You can see people eating mangos and sticky rice.”
For anyone still worried about their escapades being documented for the world to see, Google provides two ways to protect reputations.
“We automatically blur faces and license plates. All faces,” says Marx.
In addition, each photo also has a clickable “report a problem” button so viewers can express any concerns to Google.
That may help keep Thais and foreigners from being identified on international websites such as DoxySpotting.com which boasts of “Spotting Prostitutes on Google Street View!”
Urban scenes in Street View’s 34 other countries have also included industrial wastelands, slums, mansions, ruins, medieval lanes, buildings on fire, shopping malls and fabulous tourist attractions.
Street View has on occasion displayed some surprising pictures, such as the ones mischievously collected on the website 9-eyes.com, showing people armed with weapons, prostituting themselves, displaying their bare buttocks, grappling with animals, intoxicated, or sprawled dead surrounded by emergency workers.
“A Frenchman is suing Google for making him the laughing stock of his village after the firm’s Street View service put on the Internet a picture of him urinating in his garden,” Agence-France Presse reported on March 1.
Google’s lawyer, Christophe Bigot, said the lawsuit was “implausible.”
Although Google blurred his face, the man claims he became known in his small town so he filed a suit for infringement of privacy in a court in Angiers, the French news agency said.
How does it work?
Street View is accessed via the Google Maps website. While you search online for a city or street, you can click on the tiny human icon and see street-level photographs and navigate in any direction to view what is all around you.
The photos were shot with a multiple-lens camera, positioned on a pole atop one of Google’s fleet of cars, which drove almost every thoroughfare, including highways flanked by empty countryside.
Those particular visuals are often the best, capturing scenes of nature that rival the efforts of human photographers, including animals in action, sunlight filtering through foliage, ocean waves swirling along the coast and other evocative imagery.
When visiting Thailand, tourists can use Street View to explore places before they arrive, to get a sense of the area and figure out if the area is actually suited to their needs.
“You first will say, ‘Where am I going to stay?’ so you’re looking at a bunch of hotels,” says Marx, suggesting ways travelers can use the technology.
“Look up all your hotels on Street View. See where they are. What does the neighborhood around them look like? Is it close to something? Does it feel like a cute street?
“Maybe you’ve got a recommendation from a friend for this great restaurant, but it’s kind of an obscure place. So then you use Street View to say, ‘OK, it’s behind this thing.’ Or you turn the corner when you see the fruit stand, and then it’s right there.
“Just coming in with that self-confidence, that, ‘I know where all these things are, I have seen this before’ — itobviously doesn’t ruin the actual thrill of going to the place.”
Tourists and residents can wander as long as they like on a virtual tour, or take just one minute to find where they want to go right now, Marx says.
Some people in Bangkok claim to have witnessed the Street View vehicles driving around, including “chingy” who posted online: “as i walk out of my house…to throw away the trash, google street view car passes by my house, i was caught right in front of him, i stand there looking at the car as it drives slowly away…that would be funny if i turn up on google street view.”
Elsewhere in Asia, Street View is available in Singapore, Hong Kong, Macau, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan.
“This year we will be driving more of Thailand,” says Marx. “The idea is to drive the country.”
Richard S. Ehrlich is from San Francisco, California. He has reported news for international media from Asia since 1978, based in Hong Kong, New Delhi and now Bangkok.
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