Putting Miami Dade College on the map
By Jeannie Rodriguez
Google is mapping the world one street at a time. This summer, it was Miami Dade College’s turn.
Using a bulky, 250-pound, three-wheeled bicycle they road along the pathways at all eight MDC campuses in early May. Two Google Maps bikers used the Google
Trike, a tricycle with a pole-mounted camera in the rear, to maneuver around tight spaces and literally put MDC on the map.
The images are expected to be available on Google Maps somewhere between the next three to six months, according to Elaine Filadelfo, in charge of Google’s global communications and public affairs.
"The Kendall, North and Wolfson campuses have buildings that are important in the history of architecture," said Rene Ramos, archives director for MDC, "so being able to do a street view and get a really close look at some of the architectural features of those buildings becomes a good educational tool."
MDC is one of several colleges being mapped.
Google has already added photos from San Diego State University, Penn State, and Boston University to Street View and has started working with several others, including University of Pennsylvania, UC-Boulder and Rochester Institute of Technology, Filadelfo said.
“We're looking at adding a wide-range of interesting places to Google Maps, from areas all around the country,” Filadelfo added. “The administration [at MDC] was very welcoming
and accommodating, so we're excited to be able to work together.”
Google’s primary way of taking photos is with their specially adapted Street View cars, first launched in 2007. To reach areas not accessible by car, like college
campuses for example, Google created the “Trike,” and launched its photos last summer with its first run through LEGOLAND in California.
Google also launched its first Street View Snowmobile in February of this year to take images on the Whistler Blackcomb Ski Slopes in preparation for the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada.
Wendy Wang, operations program manager for Google Maps, said on the company's blog that the Trike has gone through a few different versions to get to where it is now.
“The first [Trike] came in at 500 lbs,” said Wang, “and the newest version has slimmed down to 300 lbs. Believe me, our riders are very happy about that.”
According to Filadelfo, there are only about a dozen Google bikers around the world, traveling from location to location in teams of two.
“We hire riders especially for this project,” Filadelfo said. “We need an athletic team to ride the 250 lb Trike around all day. The teams rotate turns riding and act as safety riders to scout terrain and help in case of any incidents.”
Filadelfo said photos take at least a few months to go up on Google Maps, since they do a lot of high-tech image processing to turn the photos into the interactive, 360-degree experience.
Images are updated every two to three years from their Street View cars, but no timetable has been set up for the Trike just yet. As of today, Google has Street Views in almost 20
countries. That’s a lot of biking.
But not everyone is thrilled with Google Maps high-tech operation.
“A lot of young kids think the Trike is an ice cream cart,” Filadelfo said. “It's always a little sad to have to disappoint them.”