Giving Google Maps a Heck of a View (Wash Post)

[Editor's note: If you live in or visit Washington, DC, check out this exhibit in Arlington featuring Google's Streetview public art on Pittsburgh's Sampsonia Way. See related blog post.]

Republished from The Washington Post.

The morning last May when a Google Maps car — with a roof-mounted camera — came to record street-view images of Pittsburgh’s Sampsonia Way, artists Ben Kinsley and Robin Hewlett were waiting.

They and more than a hundred community members had lined the one-way alley with a staged street parade (with marching band!), a mini-marathon and a dozen other bizarre scenarios.

Video of the resulting public art project, “Street With a View,” and a Web terminal to check out the project are now on view as part of the Arlington Arts Center’s new “Public/Private” exhibit. And the truth about it is, the little Google Maps “intervention” was a six-month undertaking — that required assistance from Google.

“They had already shot that street. Pittsburgh was already done,” Kinsley tells us by phone from Iceland, where he now works. “In the end, they were willing to reshoot the area just for us. There wasn’t any guarantee that what they shot would go live.” But it did: Just Google “Sampsonia Way Pittsburgh,” and there they are (though you’ll have to scroll around to find all of the scenes).

When it launched the street-view scenes in November, Google even offered hints that a surprise was waiting, says Elaine Filadelfo, spokeswoman for Google Maps. In tech-speak, it’s an “Easter egg.” (For the record, Google gave no money to the artists; the street-view team just liked their idea.)

Kinsley says he and Hewlett (both Carnegie Mellon grads) hit upon the idea after seeing street views.

“We asked ourselves, ‘What if we knew this car was coming down the street, what would we do? What could we do?’ ”

Free. “Street With a View” and the rest of “Public/Private” are up Tuesday-Saturday 11 a.m.-5 p.m. through April 4. Arlington Arts Center, 3550 Wilson Blvd. 703-248-6800. For more about the project visit http://www.streetwithaview.com.

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