While its still a relatively young service and still improving, Google Maps has become an indispensable resource for navigation and making sense of new places. Yet perhaps in years to come, this will become the next logical use for the service. In Japan, to highlight the effects of the earthquake and tsunami that hit the country back in March, Google drove over 44,000 kilometers through the affected regions to capture and record the landscape. The images used in the specialised site date from 2008 for the pre-disaster shots and July 2011 for the aftermath.
The initiative, which is called Build The Memory, allows you to compare and contrast before and after images of each area by seeing it before and after the earthquake occurred. The result is a striking comparison, highlighting how much destruction occurred during the incident.
While the initiative was done as a special case, it would be interesting to see how Google maps develops over time. While it's being used for directions and navigation, future years could see it being used by planners and historians among other professions in understanding processes and the development of areas. Archiving could be the next logical step for Google's flagship product and placing a further emphasis on education (alongside Google Earth) could see the service gain further recognition and progress in leaps and bounds.
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- Before and after shots of an area in Yamamoto, Japan