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Google launches Street View in Sri Lanka, gears up to capture gorgeous geography


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By Marisa Wikramanayake Google Street View will soon be available in Sri Lanka in a move that will impact the tourism industry significantly, according to Sri Lanka’s Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) Director General Dr. D.S. Jayaweera. “We are excited about bringing Google Maps with Street View to Sri Lanka because it will allow more people to discover Sri Lanka and, at the same time, it will allow people in Sri Lanka to explore new parts of their country online,” he said. The Google Maps feature, which allows viewers to explore a location through 360-degree panoramic street level images, was launched yesterday at The Stables at Park Street Mews in Colombo. The famous Google Street View Car will start collecting street level images today and will make its way throughout Sri Lanka, starting with Jaffna, Matara and Arugam Bay.                             According to Dr. Jayaweera, tourism is Sri Lanka’s third highest foreign exchange earner and the country attracted 1.5 million foreign tourists in 2014. It is hoping to reach a target of 2.5 million tourists per year. The country had the highest growth rate in tourism in the last four years in the South Asian region. Google Asia Pacific Director of Public Policy Ann Lavin agrees, citing the case of Pompeii in Italy, where once Google Street View was enabled, tourism kept increasing by 25% per year. “Sri Lanka is already a popular tourist destination and we hope Street View will make the country even more accessible to people interested in exploring and visiting here,” she said. “Google’s mission is to take the world’s information and make it useful and accessible.” Though the Street View Car will start taking images today, it was not revealed when the images would be accessible online. “The camera takes several images every second and also records the GPS location of each image and these then have to be put together to create a panoramic image,” Lavin explained. “We don’t know until we start how long it will take or what obstacles we will run into, so we have to learn as we go.” The images will be taken during the day and in many cases, to account for traffic, locations will be revisited. Google also aims to protect the privacy of any individuals captured in the images by only photographing in areas open to the public, blurring faces and vehicle license plates and allowing users to report any sensitive images so that they can be taken down. Street View is currently available in 64 countries. Users can access the images by zooming in on a Google map or dragging the orange Pegman icon to a blue highlighted street. Governments have used the Street View feature for urban planning and tourism while businesses and real estate agents use it in their advertising. Google will announce when the first images will be available, at which point they will become accessible on the link maps.google.lk.

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