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Google Patent to Add Real Time Ads to Street View

Google Maps and Street View

googleCurrently, when you open up Google Maps and click the little orange man to see the Google Street View, you see the surroundings just as they were photographed by the roving cars of 2008, including people’s clothes, car models, etc. Faces and license plates are blurred out, but major landmarks are visible and you can zoom in pretty closely when using the tool.

Google has applied for a patent that will change every billboard photographed in Street View that will alter them from their native state to a series of real time Google ads. This will allow for more revenue opportunities in that you can click on billboard ads pasted on top of the ads that currently exist. I assume you’ll be able to click nearby restaurants, stores, coupons, etc. just like when you search for something localized in any traditional Google search.

This sounds fun but my initial thoughts are two-fold:

  1. Who the hell will use this tool over traditional search? Who really cares? Billboards currently in their native form have a low return based on the off chance a lead passes by, remembers and contacts the advertiser. This patent seems strange and out of place, no one cares about walking around on Google Street View to happen across an ad they weren’t looking for.
  2. This feels like it violates some sort of air rights or advertiser rights, although I’m not sure of the legalities. It seems like although it’s their image, if I have an ad property, it’s MY property and they would need my consent to visibly alter it. And if it’s not illegal, it at least feels ethically wrong to erase the presence of ads in the native environment and replace them at will.

Why it’s not a stupid toy:

I see the usefulness of replacing something that is a marker in time (they do change, after all), but at first glance it looks like a stupid toy. At second glance, I can tell you exactly what this is that no one else is saying- it’s a quiet Google step toward a full augmented reality suite. So if you do the math, Google Street View billboard ads + Layar 3.0 = impressive augmented reality advancement that has tangible uses above and beyond what it’s currently being used for.

Imagine a real estate search where a user finds a home then begins discovering the area via Google’s Street View and sees ads for your services, for a mover, for lenders, and more. Google search is being invalidated right now by social media (and they’re letting it), so Google’s advertising revenue could take a dip in the future. This patent is one move that could revitalize the need for businesses to once again rely on the almighty Google ads if consumers take to the impending augmented reality movement.

It will be interesting to see how under the radar this project goes and what alliances Google will make in the meantime with real estate search portals. The new 2010 race to the “we did it first” is on and quality/useful augmented reality is the ribbon at the finish line.

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Lani is the COO and News Director at The American Genius, has co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH, Austin Digital Jobs, Remote Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.



  1. Nobu

    January 19, 2010 at 1:00 am

    Interesting. I can’t be the only Realtor who’s clients use StreetView to take a gander at homes and neighborhoods they already have intimate knowledge of simply because THEY CAN, thanks to Google. Knowing that, I’d try to turn it into a revenue stream too!
    To me it’s less a toy, and more a step forward to creating a more robust search tool subject to a user’s whims. Assuming it’ll work smoothly and seamlessly, that is.

  2. Elaine Reese

    January 19, 2010 at 9:43 am

    This may be a Midwest thing, but I haven’t seen too many billboards in close proximity to neighborhood homes, therefore, there would seem to be limited value. I’m assuming Google wouldn’t put a billboard in place where there was none previously. That would be really bad if they did.

    I know we must operate under different rules than Google, but I’m not permitted to PhotoShop out a cell or electric tower from a listing photo or make other changes that would misrepresent the home. Depending on the ad Google uses to replace the “old” ad, homeowners who do have a billboard close by could be upset by the type of ad that someone buys from Google. Also, local zoning laws control billboards. How will Google deal with that aspect, since they will be misrepresenting what really exists or is allowed?

  3. Dan Connolly

    January 19, 2010 at 1:59 pm

    Somehow this doesn’t seem like it has to be a big problem. I think it’s kind of like google ads running down the sides of websites. Smart people will figure out what they are. Some Realtors may actually utilize the advertising opportunity and make something out of it. I will be interested in whether they label them “google ads”. I suppose it will suck for businesses that will feel like they have to pay Google for links on street view in order to compete, but I really wonder if the placement will generate that much extra traffic anyway.

  4. cross country movers

    January 19, 2010 at 2:46 pm

    Maybe they can replace the creepy blurred out faces of people with advertisements.

  5. Rocky V

    January 19, 2010 at 3:47 pm

    From an agent standpoint, I think this could be very pivotal. If they can do it with billboards, why not yard signs? We know buyers use streetview to check out the neighborhood…

  6. Tempe Real Estate by Steve Trang

    January 20, 2010 at 1:00 am

    Every time I read anything about Google, I’m impressed. Overall, though, I’m starting to worry about Google’s presence. They’re bigger than Microsoft, and there is nothing they don’t know about you!

  7. Joe Loomer

    January 20, 2010 at 6:49 am

    This seems like a game-changer to me. Imagine a seamless integration of a virtual tour of a home where you go from street view right in the front door by superimposing a “want a tour, click here” banner on the front door or – as Rocky stated – the yard sign.

    Complete city and county tours can and will be integrated including the interiors of schools, parks, restaurants, gyms, movie theaters, arcades, malls, you name it. I think in an “Avatar” world the prospect of selling homes to Buyers before they even actually visit increases drastically. Any agent near a large military installation already does this anyway (we sell at least a few a year to veterans who have not physically been to the property).

    With the genesis of this technology, they’ll already know their way to work, where to eat, where to play, where the kids soccer games will be, where to pay the utility bill, rent videos, buy groceries, you name it. The application of this in five years will be mind-boggling.

    On the other hand, my military background is screaming like a banshee at the operational security implications of this technology.

    Navy Chief, Navy Pride

  8. JS

    January 20, 2010 at 12:10 pm

    This is a really interesting idea, but I can’t imagine it having any kind of sizable impact. When one uses streetview, it’s usually for a simple, pre-determined reason. I’m curious to see what google can do with this.

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