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Visitors and residents interested in learning more about Qatar’s most popular venues should now find them easier to access on Google Earth.

The 13-year-old program, which offers satellite views of places and landscapes around the world, was relaunched last week in a more user-friendly format.

A search of Qatar highlights hotspots like Souq Waqif, the new Msheireb Museums, Katara Cultural Village and the Corniche.

London Eye, as seen via Google Earth

As part of its update, Google Earth is offering 3D tours of some landmarks, such as the Eiffel Tower in Paris and the London Eye, a ferris wheel off of the River Thames.

But there don’t appear to be any cool such features for Qatar.

Museum of Islamic Art, as seen via Google Earth

That said, the Museum of Islamic Art (MIA) does stand out more than other attractions when in 3D mode.

Street view

The MIA is also one of the only places in the country that can be seen via Google’s “street view,” which offers a panoramic look at each of the building’s three floors.

Charlotte/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

In 2015, the government said it had signed an agreement with Google to bring the street view tech to Qatar, but no timeline was ever given.

And privacy concerns continue to abound.

Google would need permission from authorities to take photographs of locations. This is usually done from cameras mounted on cars, and the photos are then stitched together in panoramic views.

Google Earth features

For those interested in planning vacations – or just satisfying their wanderlust vicariously – Google Earth now also offers a Voyager feature.

This takes people on interactive trips around the world, from big cities to rural parks.

Google has also teamed up with Sesame Street to present 10 “Girls Around the World.” These Muppet ambassadors share information about their countries, which include Afghanistan, China and India.

Finally, there’s an “I’m feeling lucky” button that take users to random locations when they click.

Google Earth is now accessible via one’s Chrome browser or on Android phones. It will be coming to iOS devices “soon,” Google said.

A new storytelling feature so that others can create similar Voyager tours is also in the works.

Thoughts?

Travelers who will be passing through Qatar’s Hamad International Airport for the first time can now take a virtual walk through the terminal ahead of their journey.

The Doha airport has become the first in the MENA region to join Google’s Street View, which gives a 360-degree online tour of four floors of the 600,000-square-meter facility.

Announced yesterday, HIA joins Qatar’s Museum of Islamic Art and other landmarks in the region, including the Sheikh Zayed mosque in Abu Dhabi and Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, that allow virtual visitors to go on a panoramic tour without leaving their screens.

The airport can be explored using thousands of specially stitched-together images that were taken last summer using a backpack-mounted camera.

Find your way

It could be useful for those planning a journey through the airport for the first time to familiarize themselves with the layout, find particular shops or eateries and work out where amenities such as ATMs are located.

It may also help passengers at the airport more easily navigate their way through the facility.

Hamad International Airport

Sanjiban Ghosh/Flickr

Hamad International Airport

The HIA link includes footage of the main concourse with the landmark Lamp Bear, shops and children’s play areas, as well as some of the corridors leading to boarding gates and a sneak-peek into some of the lounges.

It also takes travelers though an almost-empty immigration hall in arrivals.

HIA joins more than a dozen other airports around the world that have also joined up to Street View, including the UK’s Gatwick Airport, Osaka International Airport in Japan and the Aeropuerto Madrid Barajas.

In a statement issued by QNA yesterday announcing the launch, Ulf Spitzer, global lead for Google Street View, said the aim of the project was to include “amazing places around the world” for visitors to explore.

“From Urs Fischer’s teddy lamp bear sculpture to the Dreamliners that line the runway, millions around the world will now be able to inspect the Hamad International Airport, which they may be travelling to or through soon,” he added.

Last summer, Qatar’s then-Ministry of Municipality and Urban Planning said it had signed an MOU with Google to bring Street View to the state.

At the time, no launch date for this was given. However, it said that Google would need to work with the ministry’s Center for GIS to obtain permission from authorities to survey the streets before producing the panoramic images.

You can access Street View of the airport here.

Would you use it? Thoughts?

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Charlotte/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Technology giant Google has signed a deal to bring its Street View feature to Qatar, providing residents an on-the-ground look at different locations around the country.

In a statement on its website this week, the Ministry of Municipality and Urban Planning (MMUP/Baladiya) said authorities met with a senior Google official to discuss the technology, which stitches together photographs of a location that are taken primarily from cameras mounted on cars.

MIA "street view"

MIA “street view”

Currently, the Museum of Islamic Art is the only location in Qatar to offer a Google “street view,” with a panoramic look at each of the building’s three floors.

The MMUP said it has signed a memorandum of understanding with Google, which will negotiate terms with the ministry’s Center for GIS.

In recent years, Qatar’s official geospatial agency has also been tasked with implementing the blue address plate system across the country and is currently producing a digital database of the nation’s topography.

Google will need to work with CGIS to obtain permission from authorities to survey the streets before producing the panoramic images, MMUP said.

No timeline about the launch of the Street View program was given.

Privacy concerns

Google Street View was launched in the US in 2007 and has expanded to include areas around the world, though coverage in the Gulf region in particular has been limited to non-existent.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Philippe Teuwen/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

This is likely due to privacy and security concerns.

In the past, Google has run into trouble with other nations over Street View images. In 2011 for example, the company had to reshoot photographs in Japan after the cameras it mounted to cars were deemed “too high,” allowing them to see over walls into private homes.

In response to complaints, Street View now blurs faces and license plates, as well as homes upon request. Images can also be flagged to Google as inappropriate or sensitive.

Streets with Street View imagery available are shown as blue lines on Google Maps.

Would you use the technology if it came to Qatar? Thoughts?