7 Creative Uses For Google Street View

Google designed Street View so you’d always be able to tell what your destination looks like before you get there. That’s not all it’s useful for though! Aside from virtual joyriding, here are some clever uses for Street View you may not have thought of.

This post was illustrated by Dominick Rabrun.

The addition of Street View to Google Maps on the web got us talking around Lifehacker HQ: what are some other clever ways to make use of Street View beyond it’s design? We asked around, and here are a few you might want to try.

  • Scout neighbourhoods when apartment or house hunting. An up-to-date Street View tour of a neighbourhood can tell you a lot about the area. Look around to see how close nearby shops or restaurants are, or how far the closest bus stop or train station is from the place you’re looking at. Walk the route via Street View — you can learn whether “one block over” really means “three blocks of walking through alleys” pretty quickly.
  • Check for parking or transit before you go to a new restaurant or interview. Using Street View to check out your destination is one thing, but making sure you can find a place to park your car, or where the closest train station or bus stop is located is a good idea. That way you don’t waste precious time circling for a parking space or walking around when you could be eating, hanging out with friends, or worse, in your interview.
  • Search for nearby amenities near your destination. Whether you’re planning on doing some sightseeing and want to make sure there’s somewhere near to go to the bathroom, or you’re planning a bike trip and want to know where the closest bike rack to your destination is, Street View can show you so you’re not stuck when you get there.
  • Reverse-look up destinations you don’t have an address for. When you know the general location of a place you need to go, but don’t have its street address to plug into navigation, Street View can be a lifesaver. Virtually drive to the place you want to be, or narrow it down on an overhead map, toggle Street View, and Google gives you the approximate address immediately.
  • Navigate tricky intersections before you get there. When I spoke to the How-To Geek himself about how he used Street View, he noted how useful it was for navigation, but also said it’s especially useful abroad, and when navigating strange intersections before you get there, so you’re not overhwhelmed or confused by them when you see them:
  • Use Street View vistas as source material for art, or for settings in novels. When I put out the call on Twitter for interesting Street View uses, a few people suggested using Street View as a setting reference. Whether you’re writing a novel set in a real location and need details, or you’re recreating art of a type of neighbourhood or specific view, Street View imagery can help a lot, even if you’ve already been there.

  • Take a trip down memory lane. I’ve been known to use Street View to see how neighborhoods I used to live in or have memories of have changed over the years. Whether it’s my grandparents’ old house or the place I went to elementary school, sometimes it’s fun to take a virtual tour of a place you used to know so well just to see how different it is now.
  • Hunt for silly, scary, or interesting slices of life. There are dozens of Street View art projects dedicated to this, but one that stands out to us is Jon Rafman’s 9-Eyes. Sometimes scary, sometimes beautiful, the photos he’s found are always interesting, and it doesn’t take much looking for you to find entertaining stills of everyday life in your own community either.

Street View is a great navigation tool — I especially love how, in Google Maps for Android, when you’ve finished navigating to your destination, Street View pops up and shows you what your destination looks like so you’ll recognise it. Still, it’s not the only thing I use Street View for, and now that it’s available just about everywhere (even in iOS 6, via webapp), you can get more use out of it too.

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