UPDATED 13:29 EST / FEBRUARY 01 2011

Google Augments Reality with Museum Views, Auto Check-in on Maps

Google’s latest working update on Street Views is the Art Project, a collaboration between Google and 17 of the most famous museums in the world, such as The Metropolitan Museum of Art and MoMA in New York, The State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Tate Britain & The National Gallery in London, Museo Reina Sofia in Madrid, the Uffizi Gallery in Florence and Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. The project is intended to use technology to help museums make their art more accessible, and who better to team with than Google?  The project, at its core, looks quite similar to efforts we’ve seen with print media as well, with Google having spent years working directly with publishers and libraries to broaden access to the web.

But this project in particular enables viewers to use Google Maps’ Street View to enter the galleries and explore museum information, floor plans, Street View imagery and more than 1000 high-resolution pieces photographed in extraordinary detail using super high resolution or “gigapixel” photo-capturing technology, offering a 1000 times enhanced image than average digital camers.

As Street View imagery is collected with cars, a new tool needed to be created to come up with indoor images. The invention is a push-cart envisaged with a panoramic camera to collect 360-degree views of selected galleries, lasers to capture distances to walls, motion sensors to track Trolley’s position, a hard drive to store data, and a laptop to operate the system. Users also have the possibility to create their own collection, by saving specific views on artworks, create a personalized collection and edit comment on each artwork.  For results, see here and here.

Google and Microsoft Bing are rapidly enhancing their maps features, especially for their respective mobile apps sectors.  Both Google and Microsoft are finding more and more ways to contextualize our world and surroundings, combining GPS and mobile technologies.  Alongside Google Maps’ Street View updates, we also have Google Latitude update for Android, allowing users to check-in their favorite cities and places, such as cinemas, cafés, restaurants and so on.

The feature add-on was a long time coming, and even incorporates automatic check-ins–a feature not yet commonplace in similar check-in services.  Friends of users can find out more about those particular locations, and Google Maps Navigation (Beta) even offers turn-by-turn directions. “Google closes the loop on Gowalla, Foursquare and the little guys,” notes our Editor-in-Chief Mark “Rizzn” Hopkins. “Everyone uses Google Maps, and thus makes onboarding to Latitude a no-brainer.”  And he would know.  He’s our ‘resident expert’ on LBS.  Just watch his video on location-based services, chronicling his journey into the emerging space.

When it comes to privacy, however, Google says that user privacy issues were taken into consideration and Google Latitude enables users to choose whether to share the location publicly or not. Yet, sceptics consider that this data is most likely to be stored in some form of public or private cloud, just as Google CEO Eric Schmidt declared in 2009: ‘we are all subject in the United States to the Patriot Act and it is possible that all that information could be made available to the authorities.’ We have many issues at stake here and loss of privacy is the main  variable.

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