Well, the fact is, they didn’t – entirely. Sure, it appears in Google’s wonderful maps, but the images were captured by a company called Immersive Media, who have developed these innovative products.
It seems that Immersive’s main thrust is moving images – spherical video with embedded geodata – very impressive stuff. In typical Google fashion, however, they’ve released a lo-fi version that really hits the spot. Other blogs have pointed out that the flash player used by google references individual tiles and stitches them together on the fly – very clever stuff.
Immersive say they’ve been taking these photos since 2005. I don’t know what the schedule was, but there is ample evidence of an improvement in the technology over time – the more recent images are substantially higher resolution – compare a New York shot at full zoom with one from San Francisco.
Further evidence of a time lag can be found by comparing the racy little VW with the groovy little camera – which you can occasionally catch a shadow of, with the shadow of a much less streamlined version.
All interesting enough – but really, we know it’s just damn good fun!