Remember when Google Street View only allowed you to explore streets? Since its launch in 2007, the service has been expanded to include things like coral reefs, hiking trails and the Amazon River. In its latest "off-road" adventure, however, Google Maps has thought smaller – it's used miniaturized Street View cameras to visually map a model railroad.
The li'l railway in question is actually the world's largest such exhibit, and it's much more than just trains and tracks. Located in the city of Hamburg, Miniatur Wunderland spans 1,300 square meters (13,993 sq ft), recreating a number of European and American attractions at a scale of 1:87. It's full of moving bits and pieces, along with 230,000 miniature inhabitants.
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Previously, however, visitors had to view most of it from above, as if they were in an airplane. With the new Street View option, they're now able to explore its various roads and parks as if they were right down in there.
Google partnered on the project with mapping tech company Ubilabs, which was responsible for designing the tiny camera vehicles. According to Ubilabs, "Not only did the cameras have to be just as small as the models themselves, but the distances for the automated shots had to be just right, down to the millimeter."
After about 600 hours spent working with the staff at Miniatur Wunderland, the end result is over 10,000 panoramic images which users can pan and tilt within on a dedicated microsite.
The project is promoted in the video below. And please note, the tiny Google Street View car seen in the video was not what was used to shoot the photos!