Most of the time, Google’s nifty little Street View is nothing more than an interesting toy or a way to see landmarks along a road trip. Today, it became something else: a visual memory of one of the most damaging natural disasters in recent history. Google took it upon itself to take its cameras to the streets in the aftermath of Japan’s horrific earthquake and tsunami to show the world the true extent of the devastation, complete with before and after pictures to drive the point home.
Build the Memory – the site dedicated to the project – is online as of today. The project is nothing short of awe-astounding: Google’s cars drove through 44,000 kilometers of ruin to bring us 360 degree images from the wreckage. Each image has a date stamp to let you know when the image was taken, and as we previously mentioned, Build the Memory includes before and after settings to show the true extent of the carnage.
“In the case of the post-tsunami imagery of Japan, we hope this particular digital archiving project will be useful to researchers and scientists who study the effects of natural disasters,” Ken Kawai, Street View’s senior product manager, wrote today on the Google Blog. “We also believe that the imagery is a useful tool for anyone around the world who wants to better understand the extent of the damage. Seeing the street-level imagery of the affected areas puts the plight of these communities into perspective and ensures that the memories of the disaster remain relevant and tangible for future generations.”