Inventions Wanted: Pinterest and Street View Mashup

What if there was a way to organize everyone’s photographs into a database we could all share and use in ways we never imagined?

Google Maps Street View is a 3D database of photos organized by location.  What if we used the street locations to pin copies of our photographs?  What if we made Street View 4D, so not only could we walk up and down virtual streets, we could walk up and down them in the past?

Here’s a March 2011 Street View photo of a house my family moved into in 1958, and left just after JFK was killed in November, 1963.

Lake Forest House

And here’s a picture of me, Patty, my sister Becky, and Jodie taken Christmas 1958.

Jimmy-Patty-Becky-Jody-Christmas-1958

As you can see, they have remodeled the house so that it doesn’t look the same (note the faucet in both photos).

Patty---Mike---Becky-April-1959

Here’s another picture with my sister and Patty older, along with my neighbor Michael Kevin Ralph who lived in the house with the awnings. 

How many people have lived in that house in the last 50 years?  What if we all pinned our photographs to that house in Street View?  I have no photographs of the inside of that house, but I’d love to look inside it.  Maybe Michael Kevin Ralph’s mother took some photos when were there.  I have a photo of a birthday party at Patty’s house down the street. 

I could use Street View to walk up and down S.W. 37th Street, Hollywood, Florida and see old friends.  I often think of that old Lake Forest neighborhood.  I could follow the way we walked to school and see photographs that were taken in long forgotten classrooms, or to the 7-Eleven or Kwik-Chek were we bicycled to get Cokes and RC Colas.

Not only would this let us return to past locations, but if we find photos pinned to old locations we might find old friends to reconnect with.  I wonder if Patty or Michael Kevin ever visits this street on Street View?

What if I wanted to go to New York City in the 1930s.  There must have been millions of photographs taken along its streets.  What if I wanted to visit where my father grew up in downtown Miami in the 1920s and 1930s.  How many photographs were taken in those years that could be pinned in this database?

If enough photographs were tagged to Street View eventually we’d have Street View maps of the past.  We could even walk into homes if we had the photos.  If we had enough photographs we could stitch them together in virtual reality simulations.

Not only could we leave photographs, but we could notes and annotate locations with our memories.

Can you imagine what we could all do with such an invention?

Hey, Google, are you listening?

JWH – 6/14/12

2 Responses

  1. I could really see that in a science fiction story, Jim. And who knows? Maybe we’re there already.

    Certainly, the old photos my parents had are mostly unidentifiable to us kids. And in another generation, no one will have a clue about them. But there’s never enough time for everything, and I suppose there’s not enough interest, either.

    • About 10-12 years ago I wrote a story based on this idea, but it was well before Street View and Pinterest. It was about a girl hacker who wrote a program that allowed everyone to submit their photos to a database and it would create virtual worlds. I wrote the story for a MFA Creative Writing class and then never did anything with it.

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