Using Google Streetview Panoramic Imagery for Geoscience Education

Friday, 19 December 2014
Declan G De Paor, Old Dominion Univ, Norfolk, VA, United States and Mladen M Dordevic, James Madison Univ, Harrisonburg, VA, United States
Google Streetview is a feature of Google Maps and Google Earth that allows viewers to switch from map or satellite view to 360° panoramic imagery recorded close to the ground. Most panoramas are recorded by Google engineers using special cameras mounted on the roofs of cars. Bicycles, snowmobiles, and boats have also been used and sometimes the camera has been mounted on a backpack for off-road use by hikers and skiers or attached to scuba-diving gear for “Underwater Streetview (sic).” Streetview panoramas are linked together so that the viewer can change viewpoint by clicking forward and reverse buttons. They therefore create a 4-D touring effect.

As part of the GEODE project (“Google Earth for Onsite and Distance Education”), we are experimenting with the use of Streetview imagery for geoscience education. Our web-based test application allows instructors to select locations for students to study. Students are presented with a set of questions or tasks that they must address by studying the panoramic imagery. Questions include identification of rock types, structures such as faults, and general geological setting. The student view is locked into Streetview mode until they submit their answers, whereupon the map and satellite views become available, allowing students to zoom out and verify their location on Earth. Student learning is scaffolded by automatic computerized feedback.

There are lots of existing Streetview panoramas with rich geological content. Additionally, instructors and members of the general public can create panoramas, including 360° Photo Spheres, by stitching images taken with their mobiles devices and submitting them to Google for evaluation and hosting. A multi-thousand-dollar, multi-directional camera and mount can be purchased from DIY-streetview.com. This allows power users to generate their own high-resolution panoramas. A cheaper, 360° video camera is soon to be released according to geonaute.com. Thus there are opportunities for geoscience educators both to use existing Streetview imagery and to generate new imagery for specific locations of geological interest.

The GEODE team includes the authors and: H. Almquist, C. Bentley, S. Burgin, C. Cervato, G. Cooper, P. Karabinos, T. Pavlis, J. Piatek, B. Richards, J. Ryan, R. Schott, K. St. John, B. Tewksbury, and S. Whitmeyer.