Google ‘Streetview’ + ‘Cardboard’ = Go pretty much anywhere instantly

Did you know that Google Street View covers over 39 countries, 3000 cities, and 5 million miles of the world! But wait, there’s more. Google has combined street view with its virtual reality endeavors i.e. Google Cardboard, which gives the ability to explore anywhere in the world submersively from anywhere.

A co-worker of mine has a picture of Crater Lake on his desktop background. I thought man that would be nice to see and experience. When I got home from work I went here….

Crater Lake google cardboard side by side view

What is Google Cardboard?

Google Cardboard is an initiative to create a virtual reality experience directly from your phone. All you have to do is buy a headset that is anywhere from $2 to $200. Next you download cardboard apps to your phone, put the phone in the headset and begin. I personally purchased a $30 headset from amazon so that I would have a head strap and comfortable experience. Last thing you want to do is be reminded of the actual place your standing in, when your trying to experience somewhere else. img first Cardboard experience

Google Cardboard

What is Google Street View?

I know that most people are familiar with Google Street View, but in case your not. Street view is Googles initiative to interactive mapping. This allows users to view any spot available with up close imagery. Not all roads in the US have been mapped, but I rarely come across roads that haven’t. Usually, the roads not mapped are new and were nonexistent the last time a google car came through. img street view

San Hose

What happens when Street View and Cardboard become One?

The amazingly beautiful product of the 2015 Google efforts have given humankind a step forward in the direction of exploration. Now without driving somewhere we can experience vivid parts of the world. We can learn about other cities before we travel to them. We can actually clime mountains as well! Google includes over 100 hiker paths in the street view feature set. Psychologist will use this to create relaxing scenes during mental therapy. The availability of this new tool is probably pushing virtual reality one leg forward. Newer-better teams of people will use this as a foothold to clime faster than ever toward a virtual reality for all people. Enough said, enjoy some pictures and then read the pros and cons of my own experience.

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  • Information gathering- If say your house hunting, you can checkout a neighborhood before driving out for a house showing. But, now you can immerse yourselves to be standing in front of the house, without leaving your living room.
  • Education- Students can finally be engaged in history class. The teacher can talk history about a ruin, while walking through it.Honestly, the education potential is probably so vast that I don’t think I can see its end.
  • Almost Free- Although, Oculus Rift is a cheaper alternative to virtual reality, it is still a big penny. Google offers the services for completely free. There are even methods for cutting the headset from a box if you want to go that route.
  • Battery Drain- My phone gets hot and drains almost within the hour after I start using cardboard.
  • Headset Comfort- Unless you purchase a headset with a strap you will have to hold it. My headset nose piece is uncomfortable after about 10 min.
  • Phone Compatibility- Just make sure the magnetic switch is compatibile with your phone. My phone is an htc one and it is not compatible. I ended up taking the magnet off and swinging it around the area where the phone sensor is to make the cardboard demos work. There is hope yet, most of the other apps and games don’t incorporate the magnet switch.

Engineer it!

What is the next level that you want to take this too? As an engineer I think “can I do something to make this even better? Does this new tool give me the missing piece to another idea I had?” What ever the case, this is the section of the article that appeals to the engineers. I will start by testing the new tech in 2 landscapes; they are ‘Push Forward’ and ‘Look Back’.

Push Forward is dependent on making the technology of now better. Look back is subject to seeing how this new tech applied to old technology. They both have their benefits: Push Forward grants possibilities to the development of the now for the future and Look Back grants solutions to past issues which ‘might’ grant more possibilities for the future. To be honest I am an idea generator, per say, and this shouldn’t be too hard.

1 day later….

Push Forward

Wow, that was hard. I could barely come up with any innovations because streetview is kinda limited compared to the idea of VR. But, here is what I thought of anyways.

  • Use the Google Street Views in actual VR realms: Make it so you can have an avatar and meet others at meetup points. This would be expecially engaging at the exhibits that Google included in the Cardboard sample app. I know that most of the people will say, “that is lame, just go to second life”. Well, I am talking about including the actual reality renders in a virtual reality game, similar to Second Life. This would give an even more realistic experience to users, as well as, practical experience. Stranger 1: “Oh, you know how to get around paris!?” Me: “That’s right!”, clear throat. “I walk the streets sometimes with friends on second life.” Stranger 1: “You are the coolest, most knowledgeable, person in this time zone!” Me: Sniff, “yup”.
  • Overlay advertisements in Street view: All it would take is 5 mins for google to determine where the most popular spots are in street view. Then, create non-annoying ads targeted to each specific person. Or, anytime you use street view for anywhere, have it automatically populate with ads. I know this is not a benefit for the users, but it is an advancement which VR has already incorporated; Google can make it mainstream.
  • Create 3-D modeling of Street View Imagery: This is based of the idea of using more than one image to render a 3-d image. This would definintely advance the street view and the cardboard experience. I think inorder to implement this one might need to know the distance between each image taken. However, an algorithm could be developed to determine this based off of Virtual distances. If I only had money and time….If you use my ideas let me know!
  • Wheres Waldo?: Essentially, use this new technology to develop basic games based on anywhere you want. Hide waldo somewhere, see if people can find it.

Look Back

What technology could benefit from this tech? It’s breaking grounds onto mainstream territory, it’s available for outrageously cheap, and it doesn’t lag.

  • Combine with Computer Power: As far as I know there isn’t an official solution for ditching the monitor, but imagine being in a VR bedroom just like yours with 5 monitors instead of your laptop screen. Why not boost the benefits to have what you don’t have money to get.
  • Services Incorporated: The dying industry i.e. Cable could benefit, or Hollywood. Who ever finds a way to publish real time digital content through a virtual screen, usable by cardboard, will make the dough. I say plug your phone into your cable box and watch something on 5 virtual screens, while siting at the beach. Experience movies, like your in them, hint hint…Hollywood.
  • Brain-computer-TMS: If you would have learned from a young age how to control brain waves, like they do for these toys, then you could control your phone screen, via a hat with sensors to usb. Then the next level would be to control the sensors via the phone, to mimic transcranial magnetic stimulation. Imagine being able to learn to stimulate your own brain. See Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation here, I know you interested, Air Force even uses it.
  • Unthinkable Research: Image a world where where your imagination could be translated into images, or you dreams. Its actually been done here. But, imagine new apps that can allow you to create in 3-d anything you can imagine. What to make a movie? Just use transcranial magnet sensors plugged into your phone, while you play a couple videos and use your brain waves to control complete tasks. This would then be parsed using artificial neural networks into an official classification and recognition algorithm. Then a developer would allow said images to be abstractly created. Or rather, think of a movie!


Google Street View combined with Google Cardboard is the newest technology on the block. It is going to push forward virtual reality into the mainstream, which should enable the technology to take off. The tool might appear to be gimmicky, because how many people will find it useful without google cardboard? None. But, for those that embrace it and take the next steps to advance it, will enjoy it.


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About the Author

Devin Bates

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Electrical Engineer, enjoys cookies, invents things in his mind, and thinks the Iguanas are to blame for the weekday.


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