Sep 17 2014

Google's University Street View Puts a New Spin on Virtual Campus Tours

You could be ‘walking’ the streets of your alma mater in a few seconds with Google Maps’ feature.

Whether you're an alumnus looking to revisit your old college campus, or a prospective student hunting for your collegiate dream, Google is helping to cut out the travel time.

In August, the search engine giant added 36 new schools to its lineup of Street View locales, including Georgetown University, in Washington, D.C.; the University of Miami; and Canada's University of Regina, in Saskatchewan.

"If you can’t make it in person, Street View can help you get a feel for the place you’re considering spending the next four years. And for you parents out there, this might help you get used to the idea of an empty nest," Deanna Yick, Street View's program manager, writes on a Google blog.

The feature of Google Maps was originally created to give people a street-level perspective while navigating, but it’s now used to showcase scenic locales from across the globe, too. Using the same technology, viewers can take a guided walking tour of hundreds of campuses.

These virtual tours are recorded using a 40-pound backpack-mounted camera device known as the Google Trekker. The device, which organizations borrow from Google, is outfitted with a GPS and 15 lenses pointed in different directions, allowing the user to mesh the various images into 360-degree panoramic views. Cars and trolleys are among the transportation vehicles that Google relies on to bring Street View to cities around the world, according to Ars Technica.

Virtual tours of colleges are becoming more common as the technology to create them becomes more accessible. Sites like CampusTours have made creating these virtual tours a business.

But some entrepreneurs are interested in taking the virtual tour to the next logical level with virtual reality (VR) college tours. The VR startup YouVisit was built by three international college graduates who wanted to design solutions that ease the travel burden of touring campuses.

Since 2009, YouVisit has been designing virtual university tours using 360-degree panoramic photography, somewhat akin to Google's Street View tours of the world's roads. As EdTech reported in July, more than 1,000 institutions have given the VR firm access to their campuses. Over the past year, YouVisit has been tinkering with the Oculus Rift virtual reality platform, which Facebook recently bought for $2 billion. The team has been impressed with the potential.

Until VR tours become a reality, if you’re feeling an itch to visit your old alma mater, first check to see if a Street View tour of your school is available on Google Maps or browse a gallery of all of Google’s university tours.

Google Maps

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