It’s now possible to sail down the Chicago River during the dead of winter in your pajamas – without catching hypothermia.
That’s because Web users can now view panoramic images from the Chicago River via Google Street View.
Other well-known waterways granted this honor include the Thames, Seine and Hudson rivers.
“I raised the idea to the Google Maps team about three years ago,” Hartman said. “They were very interested in it, but with so many projects in the queue, it took a while for it to happen.”
On what he called a “beautiful, clear autumn day” in October, Hartman and two Google Maps employees set out on the river in a boat equipped with a 360-degree camera. It was a long day.
“We were out there for close to 10 hours,” Hartman said. “The team filled up a capture hard drive and had to swap it out, which doesn’t happen often.”
You can view the boat’s-eye view of the Chicago River by dragging the Google Maps icon into the river or by clicking here to start your virtual voyage from Navy Pier.
Hartman and his crew covered a lot of water. Google’s camera shot panoramic images of the entire main stem of the Chicago River, the North Branch up to the North Avenue Turning Basin and the South Branch down to Bubbly Creek, which borders the Bridgeport neighborhood to the west.
Hartman said the beautiful weather brought plenty of spectators to the river. This delayed the project somewhat since Google blurs out each person’s face for privacy reasons. A face-detecting algorithm is used to do this, but Hartman says faces must also be checked manually, which takes time.
The hard work paid off, though, since now “anyone around the world with access to a computer or mobile device can view the beauty that is the Chicago River,” said Hartman.
“The digital images are intense,” he added. “People can see every bit of detail.”
Hartman said the Google Maps team was very happy with the images they captured. They plan to update the river’s Street View regularly.
Friends of the Chicago River hopes the images will show how environmental efforts like their catfish project have rehabilitated the waterways over time.
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