Google has really been asserting itself as a world leader recently and not just in terms of its search engine. Aside from the introduction of Google +, the company has been delving into helping Japan rebuild and recover by documenting the nuclear and tsunami disaster with its Street View technology. Mounted on the roof of a car, nine Street View cameras will allow a 360 degree tour of the disaster zone to be recorded and placed online.

Google, Person Finder, Japanese tsunami 2011, disaster relief, Street View, Disaster documentation, tsunami documentation, Kesennuma

The camera-clad vehicle will not only help to document the damage from the disaster, but also track reconstruction in the streets of the seaside town, Kesennuma. The system is the same as Google’s Street View, which is a feature in Google Maps. Before the disaster, Japanese citizens did not look on Street View favorably. They found the cameras to be intrusive, and a violation of their privacy. In fact, Google even opted to refilm their Japan footage for Street View with less sensitive cameras to assuage citizens.

But Street View’s new use has been welcomed with open arms, with other cities signing up to have their streets photographed and documented. They feel that it will not only show future generations a firsthand account of the extent of the damage, but also, by making the reconstruction images publically attainable, it could keep momentum for the progress going.

The new use for Street View complements Google’s other disaster efforts. Immediately after the tsunami struck, Google implemented Person Finder, which tagged 616,300 missing persons reports. By contacting everyone from local authorities to radio stations to newspapers and the National Police Agency, Person Finder brought together all of the information provided by each organization and shared it, creating a giant searchable database of information on missing persons from hospitals, shelters, and even from hand written posters.

Using Street View as a disaster documentation service, Google will not only help Japan’s recovery effort, but also make Google a household name associated with help in Japanese homes.

Via NY Times

Images Wikimedia Commons