Travel back in time with Google Maps' Street View

Play spot the difference between time-lapsed pictures of the same location with Google's mapping service
Travel back in time with Google Maps' Street View

Take a trip back in time, and no we’re not talking about the need for you to get into a time travel machine Back to the Future style.

Google will soon add a new functionality on its digital maps that allows you to see what landmarks and neighbourhoods looked like at various points in the last seven years.

The updated ‘Street View’ feature can virtually bring you to the time where for example, Christchurch was a little beautiful town before a deadly earthquake rocked the city or the devastation wrought by the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami.

When a time-lapsed snapshot is available on Google Street View, a tiny clock icon appears to the left corner of the current location picture. When you click on this icon, it transports you, through a visual portal, into the different time periods.

Although the photos mostly date to 2007, you'll probably see more recent photos like Singapore's changing skyline. Some, however, depict dramatic changes that occurred before 2007 – like taking you to the time when the Twin Towers stood erect or neighbourhoods in New Orleans were recovering from Hurricane Katrina.

Now you see it, now you don't

Google’s camera-toting cars have been making its rounds globally, taking street-level pictures for its maps, and will continue to cruise the streets as the company intends to collate more pictures for the digital time capsules.

The visuals aren’t yet available throughout Google maps, and are more common in major city centres. The number of photos in the system is expected to double over the next two days.

But due to government regulations, the time-shift feature will not be available in Germany and Switzerland, as well as in South Africa, where technical difficulties have delayed its rollout.

Oh, and of course, just like everything else on Google’s map, the look-back option is free.