photo sphere with icon

Google’s Street View Near You Not Cutting It? Create Your Own Using Photospheres

December 10, 2013 - Written By Ryan Joseph

When the Nexus 4 launched last year, one of the stand out features it offered was a camera mode called Photo Sphere. Users could stand in one place and the camera software would guide them through taking pictures in a complete circle all around, as if they were in the center of a sphere. The resulting photo spheres could then be shared on Google+ or submitted to Google Maps for the world to see. If you’ve ever used Street View, then navigating around a photo sphere will feel familiar to you.

Today, Google is taking the idea of sharing photo spheres a step farther by letting users create their own Street View by linking multiple photo spheres together, just like the Google Street View cars do. The company announced the new feature in a blog post and gives instructions for how it works.

To get started, you will need to create photo spheres. Unfortunately, only a small handful of devices have the ability to take photo sphere pictures: the Nexus 4, Nexus 5, Nexus 7 (2013), Nexus 10, HTC One Google Play Edition (GPE) and Samsung Galaxy S4 GPE. It’s possible to modify other devices by using root to enable photo sphere capture, but natively, only the Nexus and GPE devices can do it.

Another option is to create photo spheres manually using a standard camera. This requires manually taking a series of pictures (without software guidance) and then either manually adding XML code or uploading them to a website which adds the code for you. This method is considerably more complicated, and the full instructions can be found here.

Assuming you are using a mobile device to take your photo spheres, just find the area you want to capture and begin taking spheres. Think of how Street View works and take a sphere in spot, then walk a short distance and take another one. Do this as many times as you want until you’ve captured the entire area.

Then you can select your photo spheres from the Google Maps Views page and drop them on a map, linking them together in the process. Your finished product will look and feel just like Street View, with arrows pointing in the direction of the next viewable area. Pretty cool, huh?

Photo Sphere Maps Screenshot

Google envisions this new tool as being helpful for capturing places during special events, or capturing places that Street View cannot reach.

“We are excited to see the different types of Street View experiences that everyone will contribute. For example, this feature can now enable environmental non-profits to document and promote the beautiful places they strive to protect. It also opens up a new tool for photographers to showcase diversity in a specific location — by times of day, weather conditions or cultural events — in a way that Street View currently doesn’t cover.”

If you know of an area uncovered by Street View, go ahead and get started taking photo spheres to add it yourself! Share it with the world so everyone can see.