If you are someone who thinks time travel is just a fantasy, maybe it’s time for you to rethink it.
A software engineer at Google has developed an incredible tool that mimics travelling back in time pretty closely.
Raimondas Kiveris, a Google Research software engineer, has built an open-source map which can show you how exactly your city looked at an earlier time period and how it changed over time. The map enables both a birds’ eye view and a pedestrian level view and comes with a slider to control the year.
One can see an accurate representation of any U.S. city dating back all the way back to the 1800s. Kiveris’s map, which he nicknamed as project “rǝ”, is the result of his curiosity about how New York, his birthplace, changed so rapidly over 20 years. This led him to ask himself how his neighbourhood must have looked even before he was born, and that is when he took upon himself to get started on the project.
Kiveris mentioned that the entire project took him three years to complete and attributed its success of it to the extensive research into artificial intelligence and machine learning that he did at Google.
Currently, the map is still in an early prototype stage; however, it can successfully offer its users a glimpse of any U.S. city street decades into the past.
Now, to source information about the precise structures of buildings, their sizes, heights, roof shape and etc., during different time periods, Kiveris made use of historical fire insurance maps. From there on, he used them to create simple 3D models of the buildings and added them to his project.
It is the Google software engineer’s wish for the open-source map to do more than show model buildings. He and his team created the project to help individuals such as librarians and map enthusiasts contribute their own historical findings so that more details can be added to it.
Over time, as the photographic data keeps on getting more refined along with known dates and locations, Kiveris mentioned that the map could make use of deep learning to augment better architectural details instead of simplified 3D blocks.
According to him, five years down the line, his innovation will be capable of creating realistic representations of U.S. cities, which can be made used for video games and even movies.
Eventually, as more and more detail gets added or contributed to the map, the end goal of Kiveris and his team is to let users visualise the interiors of buildings at every possible time period in the past.
Lastly, with this unique project of his, Kiveris hopes that an effective archive of hyperlocal neighbourhoods can be created throughout time so that landmarks which perished due to not being considered historical landmarks could also be viewed at convenience.
What do you think of this virtual time-travel portal? Would you want Google to integrate the same into Google Maps? Let us know in the comments down below.
I am from NYC and I think this is a great idea. New York, has so many wonderful neighborhoods and many extraordinary architecture marvels, that it would be a shame for future generations to miss out on.