According to Andrea Frome, a software engineer at Google Maps, the search giant has started to give Manhattan a makeover as far as its Street View is concerned at any rate. Manhattan was one of the first cities to get the Street View treatment when the service originally launched, and with dozens more added in the meantime, Google has decided to go back and revisit it to make things even better.

Things such as the Street View maps being more recent for a start, so landmarks such as the New Museum in the Bowery now being pictured in its near complete state for example. Or how about sharper images, as exampled by the Washington Square pictures which really are much clearer than before, especially when it comes to visible detail on the arch in this case. You can also now look upwards in Street View which means you can see the Manhattan skyscrapers in all their glory.

However, by far the most interesting update as far as I am concerned would have to be the face blurring technology. Not because Google is doing it at all, although the idea that it is taking personal privacy seriously is always nice if a little unexpected, but rather how it is doing it. It has taken a full year of research and development, resulting in a face detection algorithm that searches the Street View image database and digitally blurs any human faces it finds. To be fair it seems to be doing a pretty good job, which is pretty impressive considering the problems that previous stabs at similar technology have had in the past. I have not had the time to go through the Manhattan landscape with a fine tooth comb, but after an hour or so of playing around I could not find many false positives. Instances of billboards being mistaken for real live humans, or real live humans being mistaken for aliens, are few and far between.