Google virtual tour
As a giant tricycle equipped with a towering camcorder made its way around the Green about a year ago, many students stopped to stare quizzically at the contraption. This week, the data collected — along with images from more than twenty other colleges and universities — became part of a Google Street View initiative that enables viewers to virtually tour campuses from all over the world at street-level.
The Street View feature for institutes of higher education is aimed at prospective students, nostalgic alumni and current students who want to become more familiar with their campuses, according to a post on the official Google blog. The virtual campus tour could help prospective students tour various campuses without physically conducting college visits, which can often be expensive and time consuming, The Los Angeles Times wrote.
The initiative, however, is unlikely to be widely used and cannot truly stand in for an in-person visit and tour, students interviewed by The Dartmouth said.
“No virtual tour will ever replace actually visiting campus,” tour guide Alex Wolf ’14 said.
Visitors to the College often remember their campus tours as key elements of understanding and experiencing the school, he said.
Another campus tour guide, Lukas Ruiz ’12, emphasized the importance of personal, dynamic tours for the information they provide. Students often take the opportunity to ask questions about social and academic aspects of college life and to hear individual students’ stories.
While prospective students may find the ability to travel campus via Google Street View appealing, the feature may be more useful for freshmen on campus who may need help identifying buildings and finding their classes, he said.
In addition, many colleges already have virtual campus tours on their admissions websites, but few students seem to use them to replace real campus tours, tour guide Michael Zhu ’14 said. A new way to virtually view campus is unlikely to significantly affect prospective students, he said.
Nonetheless, prospective students lacking the funds to visit Dartmouth or living too far away to reasonably attend a campus tour can use the Google feature to provide another lens — however limited — through which to view the Dartmouth campus, Ruiz said.
Milton Fung ’13, an international student from Hong Kong, said he does not think he would have used Street View as a prospective student, given that he did not utilize the virtual tour on the College’s website. Instead, he said he relied on conversations with Dartmouth students and admission representatives to make the decision to come to Hanover.
In addition to Dartmouth, schools from the United States, Canada, Denmark, Great Britain, Italy, Japan, Ireland, the Netherlands and Taiwan are partnering with Google to publish Street View to provide imagery of their campuses.
The publicity surrounding the new feature has appealed predominantly to the students who tried to follow the tricycle on its trip around campus and situate themselves within the photo frames when it first came to document the terrain, Emma Routhier ’12 said.
Because Street View updates pictures only every few months or years, the faces captured by the Google tricycle, although blurred, will remain on Google’s site until the images are updated.