A new photo option called "Photo Spheres" has been included in today's 4.2 release of the Android platform. The feature allows users to take panoramic pictures, which can be shared publicly to Google Maps.
Google Maps has wowed users for a long time with its Street View feature, allowing 360 degree views of locations all around the world, including users' own neighborhoods. In the desktop version of Google Earth, additional features allow users to view relevant videos, pictures, and panoramas of off-road locations from Europe to the moon.
Android 4.2, released today, allows users to get in on the action, and further inflate Google's massive library of imagery from all over the planet. Using a new camera option called “Photo Spheres”, users can take 360 panoramas of locations, and share them to the rest of the world using Google Maps.
Users cannot share any other kinds of data in the same manner.
"Your images will help make Google Maps more comprehensive, and enable other travelers to get an accurate preview of a location before they arrive," said Google's Evan Rapoport in a blog post.
Google has created a website, highlighting locations where such user generated panoramas are available, visible on a map as blue spheres. There aren't many right now – only a few forlorn dots in California and New York. But, with the widespread use of Android devices, it's conceivable that the (Google) planet will soon be full of panoramic images located in depths that street view cannot penetrate – mountains, valleys, caves, rivers – the new feature is a kind of invitation to users to help Google build the best map service of them all.