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February 2018

Soundtracks added to Google Street View

Since 2007 when Google Street View launched, the technology has evolved to feature panoramic 360-degree photos of locations on all seven continents and the latest enhancement: soundtracks.

The acoustics are thanks to AI, with early reviewers praising the results as mostly convincing, although they're not without some hiccups.  "It's a good reminder of both the promise and limitations of AI," writes Mark Wilson, a senior writer at Fast Company.

The addition of background sound is via a web-based installation created by Nao Tokui at Imaginary Soundscape. His system uses a pair of neural networks first developed by MIT.  One network identifies the content within the street images, while the second pinpoints audio the machines pull from 15,000 sounds in an open-source library. No human is involved in the pairings.

One example that can be experienced is Antoni Gaudi's famous unfinished Roman Catholic Church in Barcelona, La Sagrada Familia, where visitors will hear a priest chanting in Latin as they explore the cavernous cathedral. The site also invites random selections or searches by address. (It only works on PC in Chrome and Firefox.)