Every day, millions of photographs of the same landmarks are captured and posted on social media. As our glaciers are receding, our cities expanding and the lakes drying up, scientists claim these photos could provide valuable insights into how our world is changing.
Working with the University of Washington, Google has created software capable of stitching together these crowd-sourced images to create stunning timelapses that show the Earth evolving. Researchers from the two partners gathered time-stamped and geo-tagged public photos from around the web (Flickr, Picasa, etc.) in a method they’re calling ‘Time-lapse mining’. If you’ve uploaded a photo of a major landmark, whether natural or manmade, it’s possible this team has seen it.
From 86 million old photographs, the scientists created revealing timelapses that might not have otherwise been possible. Normally to create one, you have to set up a camera and keep taking images over a long period to capture changes. By utilising the wealth of photos uploaded to public sites in the past decade, the researchers can put together the pieces and reveal the changes without having to put in the time – and usefully monitor changes to the environment.
Gaby is a wildlife documentary producer with broadcast credits on BBC, National Geographic, Discovery and PBS.
Ricardo Martin-Brualla, University of Washington, David Gallup, Google Inc. and Steven M Seitz, University of Washington and Google Inc.