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Greatest Google Street View Hack Ever?

Something doesn't look right in this random alley in Pittsburgh when you inspect it using Google Maps' Street View option.


It should be deserted on a rainy morning, but instead there's a marching band on either side of the street. In a garage, two people stand in lab coats next to a "Love Laser." A crowd of people gathers on either side, clapping and cheering, and confetti seems to be raining down overhead. Nine people appear be running a marathon, and a few blocks to the east you can spot a giant chicken sitting in a vacant lot, ready to be seasoned and put on a roasting pan. Near the street's end, two gentlemen have drawn their swords for a fight.

These things did not happen by accident. This "Street With A View" project was the product of two art students who, as a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette story explains, came up with the idea of putting on a show for Google's Street View, then got in touch with Google staffers at the Web company's local office to arrange things. They recruited help from friends and neighbors and staged all those bizarre scenes on a Saturday in May as Google's camera-equipped car slowly cruised down a few blocks of Sampsonia Way -- as you can see in the video below.

The results are, as one review put it, elaborately awesome.

These shots have been online since November, but I, as somebody who covers the online world for a living, didn't know about them until I saw a presentation of Street With A View in an exhibit at the Arlington Arts Center Friday evening. It took me some time to stop giggling.

As brilliant as Street With a View is, I'm not aware of any other Street View hacks to match it. Not that Google Maps can't provide unintentional entertainment -- see the Google Sightseeing site for links to funny and strange things seen in Google's mapping sites and software (check back here later this week for a report on the latest release of the Google Earth program, which adds underwater and historical views). Maybe you've stumbled upon some of these quirky cartographic fragments yourself. What's the weirdest thing you've seen while clicking around a map online?

By Rob Pegoraro  |  February 3, 2009; 11:00 AM ET
Categories:  Digital culture  
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For a complete catalog of Google Street Views from "Street with a View", check out this blog. There are over 1500 Google Street View finds listed.

Posted by: mapper99 | February 3, 2009 11:25 AM | Report abuse

Interesting art project. But hardly a "hack" if Google was in on it.

Posted by: tundey | February 3, 2009 1:04 PM | Report abuse

Didn't one of the online mapping Web sites offer driving directions from New York to London? The site had specific instructions to drive along the bottom of the ocean, or to take a boat or submarine. Something like that.

Posted by: SSMD1 | February 3, 2009 4:45 PM | Report abuse

I'm fairly certain it was Google, as of about two years ago. They don't support this today but then directions from NY to London involved swimming across the Atlantic Ocean from the NY docks to the nearest point in England, whereupon one could resume the trip. Smashing, I say!

Posted by: JeffRandom | February 4, 2009 2:21 AM | Report abuse

I was actually sitting on my front porch when Google did our "street view", but didn't know it until I checked it out recently!

Posted by: jengledc | February 4, 2009 11:06 AM | Report abuse

One of the Street Views of my neighborhood in DC shows my car parked on the street. But when you click forward half a block and turn right, there's my car again. The weather/lighting is different once you make the "turn," so I imagine the cameras went by on different days.

Posted by: beisbol | February 4, 2009 11:29 AM | Report abuse

Maybe not weird, but certainly a false entry on Google maps:
On the map of Budapest there is a street named "Fekete Pákó utca" (Fekete Pákó is a black entertainer living in Budapest).
The problem is that in reality there is no street named after him (the city does not allow a street to be named after a person who is still living). As a matter of fact, there is not even a street at the location where Fekete Pákó utca is shown on Google maps.
While this was discovered last November and Google notified, the error is still there.
A related article (in Hungarian):

Posted by: observer31 | February 4, 2009 11:34 AM | Report abuse

This is not news. This story was published months ago in the new york times. Way to go washington post.

Posted by: aksunder | February 4, 2009 12:01 PM | Report abuse

I think I read somewhere that a guy somehow managed to propose to his girlfriend by holding up a sign that said "Marry Me" as the street view camera drove by.

Posted by: klh84 | February 4, 2009 1:07 PM | Report abuse

The Marching Band on Sampsonia Way is behind "The Mattress Factory," an outstanding art gallery dedicated to installation art. If you go to PGH be sure to check it out. It's not far from the Warhol museum.

Posted by: d_lux | February 4, 2009 1:44 PM | Report abuse

aksunder wrote:
"This is not news. This story was published months ago in the new york times. Way to go washington post."

So according to you, once one newspaper reports something, no other newspaper should ever bother writing an article about it?

Along with many others, I don't usually read the New York Times, and I didn't know about this. I enjoyed reading about it, so I'm glad the Post didn't take your advice.

Posted by: yrral | February 4, 2009 6:46 PM | Report abuse

Google is full of jokes like these. Although they've taking it down now, perhaps out of fear that someone would actually follow the directions and then sue, a year or so ago, you could ask directions from somewhere in the US to Brazil, and you'll get driving directions to southern Florida, and then swimming directions as far as São Paulo.

Posted by: blert | February 4, 2009 8:42 PM | Report abuse

Using Google Maps satellite view, I saw an airplane in the middle of an automobile parking lot on Fort Belvoir, Virginia. I have used the satellite view to look at airports before, but this airplane display is far from its airport. (Accotink Road, John Kingman Road, Keene Road)

Posted by: MrDCflickr | February 5, 2009 11:38 AM | Report abuse

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