At the SIGGRAPH 2010 event this week in Los Angeles, Microsoft researchers showed off a next-generation tool for browsing street-level imagery. It’s called Street Slide, and it combines the up close realism of, say, Google Street View or Bing’s similarly named Streetside product, with “strip” panoramas that offer a wider perspective of a city block or a long street.
Street Slide provides a seamless transition between the two types of imagery and appears to offer some noticeable improvements over the current state of street imagery applications: the ability to “flip” through a series of street images (much like you can flip through album covers in iTunes), faster navigation up or down a city block, and — as the image above shows — a more complete look at the businesses and facilities found on a given street.
The Microsoft researchers — Johannes Kopf, Billy Chen, Richard Szeliski, and Michael F. Cohen — have posted several pieces of material online, including an 8-page PDF of their research. But probably the best way to understand Street Slide is by watching this video, especially at about the :35 and 2:35 marks.
The video references a user study that asked participants to find specific storefront features; Street Slide, even with business information turned off, was “significantly more efficient than Google Street View, which only supports jumping between bubbles,” the study concluded. (Though not without significant opportunities for improvement, too.)
Street Slide’s Future
Street Slide is in its infancy right now. The researchers say they’ve only covered about four kilometers on six streets in Seattle.
The video (above) says that they’ve begun developing Street Slide for the iPhone; other mobile platforms would presumably be planned, too. But there’s no consumer version — desktop or mobile — that users can try at the moment. A Microsoft spokesperson gave us this statement when asked about plans to roll Street Slide into Bing Maps:
Our hope is to explore Street Slide on all possible platforms, both fixed and mobile, where it would be useful to people. We’ve had many positive interactions with counterparts in the product groups and are optimistic that Street Slide will be adopted by one of the groups – that’s one of the reasons researchers work at Microsoft, to affect real products for customers – but have no timeframe to announce.
Assuming Street Slide eventually becomes part of the Bing Maps/Mobile portfolio, it’ll be another feather in their cap and reinforce Greg Sterling’s previous position that Bing Maps has stolen the “cool crown” from Google.