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Google Streetview does Amsterdam

DutchAmsterdam.nl — If economic realities are preventing you from visiting Amsterdam in person, you can now opt for the next best thing — a virtual tour of the city’s streets and canals, courtesy of Google Maps.

Yesterday the search giant unveiled panoramic street views of nearly all streets in Amsterdam and surrounding towns.

Google Netherlands introduces Streetview: in Dutch (but you’ll get the picture)

Cars with special photo equipment traversed the streets of Amsterdam, as well as Rotterdam and Groningen, for nine months last year.

At 20-meter intervals 360-degrees panoramic pictures are taken. Those photographs, stiched together, can now be viewed in Google Maps and Google Earth.

Twelve smaller towns were photographed as well: Volendam, Edam, Zaanstad, Koog aan de Zaan, Zaandijk, Ouder-Amstel, Amstelveen, Diemen, Weesp, Barendrecht, Spijkenisse en Hoogvliet.

Google says it wasn’t easy. For one thing, optimal picture taking weather is dry and preferable not too cloudy. Unfortunately, Dutch weather doesn’t alway cooperate (read: would have been enough to drive Noah to desperation).

Too, the city offers plenty of additional challenges, such as narrow streets, lots of one-way traffic rules, countless bikes and hordes of tourists. Then there are all the public works — which many Amsterdammers suspect are purposely scheduled in clusters in order to encourage car owners to use public transport instead.

No Red Light District, yet…

Matter of fact, Amsterdam’s Red Light District is — for now — missing from Google’s streetview. “That has nothing to do with censorship,” a Google spokesperson told local daily Het Parool. “Groningen’s Red Light District is already pictured, but in Amsterdam we simply have to come back at a more opportune moment.”

Speaking of which, when Streetview was introduced in the US two years ago, there was a storm of criticism. In a country notorious for its lax privacy laws — and, under the excuse of its ‘war on terrorism,’ forcing travellers to the States to hand over their life history — people were upset at having their faces, cars and sometimes even views of their living rooms posted online for all to see.

Undercover Lingerie Mannequins

Google’s solution was to blur out faces and car license plates. It’s software works so well that even the face of a horse in New York’s Central Park was blurred.

A button on the Streetview screen allows users to report ‘inappropriate’ images. We’re not sure whether that is how, in Amsterdam Streetview, the faces of lingerie-clad mannequins in the shop windows at high-class lingerie store Paars (Spuistraat 242) ended up blurred…

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This post was last updated: Sep. 18, 2011    

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