Google Street View Expands Russia Coverage in Time for Sochi Olympics

By Todd R. Weiss  |  Posted 2014-02-01
Sochi Olympics

Google Street View Expands Russia Coverage in Time for Sochi Olympics

Winter Olympics fans who can't get to the far-off games in Sochi, Russia, this year can now turn to their computers and tablets to explore some of the host country's fascinating and little-seen cities and towns using new imagery that's been added to Google's Street View online collections.

"With the eyes of winter sports fans turning to Russia, we thought this would be a good time to add more towns, cities and picturesque sights of this sprawling country to Google Maps," wrote Carlos Reolid, the program manager for Google Street View, in a Jan. 31 post on the Google Europe Blog. "From today, Street View will be available in Vladivostok, Yakutsk, Irkutsk and, of course, Sochi."

The new images add myriad cities and towns, as well as unique destinations and features, wrote Reolid. "For the first time, Street View now reaches the faraway corners of Russia," he wrote. "Users can take a walk around Yakutsk, the city with the greatest seasonal temperature swings on Earth (the lowest recorded winter temperature was −64.4°C with the highest summer peak hitting 38.4°C)."

Google Street View cars traveled more than 186,000 miles in Russia during 2013 to capture the newly added images, he wrote, which covers an area housing almost 60 percent of the country's population. "We mapped the biggest Russian island of Sakhalin and covered the Russkiy Bridge, the world's longest cable-stayed bridge. While snapping the M52 highway, also known as Chuya Highway or Chuysky Trakt, Street View met indigenous tribes."

The experiences of the Street View drivers were often unique as they captured the images, wrote Reolid. "When taking imagery of the Tobolsk monastery the drivers spent two days praying with the Monastery Abbot. In order to get to some remote spots, Street View cars were transported in containers on tracks and boats. There was even place for romance: while shooting Sakhalin, one driver met his future wife!"

The new images will help Olympics fans vicariously explore some of the sites they are watching on television and online during the events.

Viewers can also watch all the competitions on the official Olympics Channel on Google's YouTube video service, as well as on literally hundreds, if not thousands, of Olympics-related YouTube channels. Viewers can even watch broadcasts of related features and commercials that will be shown during the events.

For those lucky enough to travel to and attend the Winter Games, they can certainly use other Google services that will help them on their adventures, including Google Translate services, which can help them with the languages they will encounter. In November 2013, Google improved its Google Translate language translation app for Android to make it faster, and expanded its coverage to include several additional foreign languages, including Malay and Ukranian.

The Translate app, introduced in 2010, allows users to speak into an Android device to get a translation into another language, or to use a built-in handwriting feature to get translations. Those capabilities are useful for travelers when they are in places where non-native languages are spoken.

Google Street View Expands Russia Coverage in Time for Sochi Olympics

The latest version of Google Translate includes more language support for the built-in handwriting feature, which gives users the ability to directly write words in other languages for quick translations. Users can also take advantage of the app's camera translation feature, which allows users to take a photo of written text with their Android device and highlight which words they want to be translated.

So far, Translate supports translations for more than 70 languages, including Afrikaans, Albanian, Arabic, Armenian, Azerbaijani, Basque, Belarusian, Bengali, Bosnian, Bulgarian, Catalan, Cebuano, Chinese (Simplified), Chinese (Traditional), Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Esperanto, Estonian, Filipino, Finnish, French, Galician, Georgian, German, Greek, Gujarati, Haitian Creole, Hebrew, Hindi, Hmong and Hungarian. Others are Icelandic, Indonesian, Irish, Italian, Japanese, Javanese, Kannada, Khmer, Korean, Lao, Latin, Latvian, Lithuanian, Macedonian, Malay, Maltese, Marathi, Norwegian, Persian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Slovak, Slovenian, Spanish, Swahili, Swedish, Tamil, Telugu, Thai, Turkish, Ukrainian, Urdu, Vietnamese, Welsh and Yiddish, according to Google.

In March 2013, Google Translate for Android got a big upgrade when Google unveiled a feature that lets traveling users access language-translation services on their mobile devices, even when they don't have access to an Internet connection. Instead of relying on a connection, users can now download individual offline language apps for devices running Android 2.3 or higher.

The Olympics are a huge draw for Google users. The 2012 Olympics were ranked seventh in Google's Zeitgeist 2012 listings of the most popular global and U.S. searches for 2012 using Google Search. That list was topped by Whitney Houston and her volatile personal life and tragic death in February 2012, followed by the Gangnam Style dance and the devastation of Hurricane Sandy. The Apple iPad 3 came in at No. 4, and the video game Diablo 3 landed in the No. 5 spot in 2012.

Rounding out the rest of the top 10 global searches for 2012 were Kate Middleton at No. 6; the 2012 Olympics at No. 7; Amanda Todd, a Canadian teen who committed suicide in October after being the victim of vicious bullying, at No. 8; actor Michael Clarke Duncan (the big actor from "The Green Mile") at No. 9; and the television show "Big Brother Brazil 2012" (BBB12) in the 10th spot.

Back in February 2013, the website, which is not affiliated with Google, posted a fun blog entry about the buildings and other venues that will be used for the events in Sochi, where preparations were feverishly under way. Aerial Google Maps Street View images were highlighted for the 11 competition venues in Sochi, starting with the brand-new Sochi Olympic Park, according to the post. Ski areas and bobsled areas are also illustrated in the images.

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