I’ve been asking Kawai-san all about how Street View got started and about its current state, but at a pretty early stage of the Wii U project, we were already paying attention to it and its appeal. We couldn’t do it on our own, so we were mulling over various approaches. Suzuki-san, I should have you talk about that.
Okay. As far as I’m aware, it began with a demo we showed to a select group of people at E320 in 2011. It showed a real image of a car going down a street on the television screen, but in sync with the image of the car, you could use the Wii U GamePad to view it from a full 360 degrees.20. E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo): A video game trade show usually held in Los Angeles.
That was the prototype for Wii U Panorama View21.21. Wii U Panorama View: Immersive simulation software that allows users to use the Wii U GamePad to look at something from any angle in 360 degrees as if they are standing right there. It is scheduled for release in the spring of 2013. A demo version is planning to be released through Nintendo eShop that will allow users to experience various scenes.
That’s right. The structure and way we made it is a lot like Google Street View, so I really understood what Kawai-san said earlier about the difficulty in photographing.
So the places that were challenging were pretty similar! (laughs)
Yeah! (laughs) However, Wii U Panorama View is video, so we focused on the aspect of a simulated experience of situations you wouldn’t usually get to see or undergo. From now on, we are planning to release it in various forms, like omni-directional images of Carnaval do Rio de Janeiro22 or flying through the sky with birds, but we talked about whether we ourselves would have to keep going to film those things. So as a new possibility that’s different from video, we wondered about making something together with Google, who had experience with Street View.22. Carnaval do Rio de Janeiro: The world’s largest carnival, held each year in Rio de Janeiro.
In order to make something we’ve never experienced before in a speedy cycle, it’s ideal to borrow the strength of skilled people. You can make something much better if you work together with professionals of that field.
At that time, we just happened to be making something that could serve as a technological foundation, so with Ohashi-san from teamLab, we said, “Let’s put all the images on a cube and look at them that way,” and experimented with a prototype.
teamLab is a group of professionals who are much more knowledgeable about Web technology than we are, so we asked for their cooperation from early on in constructing a system using Web technology on Wii U.
Right. We had worked with Nintendo before this project, which led to me being working on this.
How was the reaction to that prototype you made?
The moment we first put it on the TV, the reactions were identical with what we saw during our introductions.
Everyone really has the same kind of impression. Of course, the richness of the Street View material led to that surprise, but when you see it on a big television screen, unlike when you use a personal device like a PC, smartphone or tablet, a unique feeling occurs. It’s the same when engineers see it. They say, “Wow!”
When you came to present it in America, the Google staff had the exact same response. Suzuki-san came for two days. The people who saw it on the first day said, “That’s amazing!” Their excitement spread around the company, so on the second day, the meeting room was so full of people that you couldn’t get in!
That’s right. So many people came that the room filled up.
Actually, it’s well known that Google’s technical teams don’t like meetings. They basically want to make things at their own pace, so even if we hold a meeting, no one shows up!
But that time, they really swarmed in! It was such an unusual occurrence that one manager said it was the first time his whole team had assembled in the same room!
I guess that demo made quite an impact.
Everyone there was incredibly excited. It was such a great match from the start that people wondered if maps and Street View should have been like this!
I had everyone lean in and look at it and try it out, and immediately afterward, I got lots of advice, like “You should do this,” or “You should do that.” (laughs)
I suppose it made such a good impression because everyone realised for the first time that a device structured like Wii U never existed before. Up until then, Google had devised various methods for handling the photography, but has assumed them to be outputted to conventional devices, so everyone realised for the first time that it could be better if you optimise the outlet.
That’s exactly it. I was shocked.
Unfortunately, the impact you get from physically panning the Wii U GamePad in combination with the immersion of a big screen doesn’t come across fully through explanations or over the Internet. It only really hits you – “wow! I really can go anywhere with this!” – when you see it directly for yourself.
The immersion the first time you see it is incredible. All of a sudden, you get lost!
It’s true! I always thought Street View was a tool to prevent you from getting lost! But this makes you say, “With this, getting lost is fun!” (laughs)
I know what you mean! (laughs) There’s a strong feeling of getting lost and wandering aimlessly in a new town you’ve never been before.
About the beginning of development, when the programs weren’t completely linked, I was testing it and by chance found myself someplace I’d never seen before! I was like, “Where am I?” and “It sort of looks like America!” It’s oddly fun.
In other words, you can link it with a map and switch back and forth between the two screens, but changing that setup just a little could result in a new kind of game.
Yes. It could be fun just to start by designating a secret place and then guessing it.
Until now, you could only access Street View through a map. You looked at it alone, so that kind of idea never came up. But as just mentioned, simply by tweaking it a bit, it becomes something completely different and new.
That’s true. Up until now, the usual process was first you look at a map, then drop in a pegman23, then look at it through Street View. That was the only way you used it.23. Pegman: A clothes peg-shaped icon in Google Maps that users click and drag over the map to initiate Street View.
I think another new enjoyment of Street View could arise when the place resulting from a search makes you think, “Huh? That’s not what I expected!”
I suppose that would occasion a new discovery even to you, Kawai-san.
Yeah. I don’t think we ourselves have used Street View to the fullest at all yet.
The world’s largest collection of scenic photos and data may actually be a treasure trove of material for incredible entertainment!
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