Google is set to unleash its Street View Trikes in the Market to capture the nooks and crannies that it couldn’t capture the first time around by car.
Even in a neighbourhood accustomed to aggressive quirk, a giant tricycle equipped with several cameras mounted on a pole is likely to draw pedestrian eyeballs. So many eyeballs, in fact, that it could pose a problem.
“It’s inevitable that some people are gonna get in [the images],” says Wendy Rozeluk, a spokesperson for Google Canada, which will be sending one of its Trikes into Kensington Market to capture new Street View photos as early as this week (weather permitting). “But I think that’s kind of one of the ways we work with the community, as far as figuring out the best time that they suggest [we visit them].”
For the second year in a row, Google’s Special Collections team will be hanging out in Canada, mapping those spaces—both exterior and interior—that the company was unable to adequately obtain on its first Street View drive-through in 2009. Unlike Google’s earlier, car-based expeditions along public roads, Special Collections aims to catalogue places that they previously couldn’t reach, for reasons of either vehicle size or permission. Last summer, they took the Trike through the Toronto Islands. Earlier this spring, the same apparatus was spotted along the trails of High Park. And very soon, it will be visiting Kensington Market, to update the three-year-old exteriors and explore some previously undocumented alleyways.
In addition, this fall will see the arrival of the Google Trolley, which will be popping into participating local stores, so that desktop flâneurs the world over can browse vintage frilly dresses and compare the going rates of avocados. Last month, the Kensington Market Business Improvement Area (BIA) distributed a notice offering retailers the opportunity to sign up.
“We had driven through Kensington Market on the initial launch of Street View with the car,” says Rozeluk. “Obviously, in this case, it’s a matter of being able to go in the markets. And the beauty of Kensington Market really are the markets … it really translates into the experience of the place, and that’s kind of where it makes sense. Much like Whistler, you can take the car in certain elements, but there’s the essence of being able to go down the mountain and seeing what Whistler really is about, [and] you need the snowmobile to do that. To really get an essence of Kensington … it’s not just about the car, the picture or images you can get from the camera on the car, it’s about the market and the place.”
And what other parts of Toronto will be getting the panopticon treatment this year? “I don’t have the specific list they’ve reached out to,” Rozeluk says. But “a lot of times, it’s stadiums, parks, amusement parks, universities … And then in the case of Kensington, it’s certain markets. This is one way of doing it, and again it all depends on permission, and appetite by the community.”
Kensington BIA coordinator Yvonne Bambrick says there’s indeed been a great deal of appetite. “Some of the feedback I got when I was going door to door delivering [the notice], talking with people is, ‘Oh great, they’re gonna reshoot.’ You know, the first time they did it, maybe it was garbage day or maybe it was during the municipal strike, but there was garbage everywhere.” And so, she says, everyone’s happy that they’re going to get a chance to make a second, less detritus-strewn impression. (Although most of the current Street View images of Kensington are dated “July 2009″—the period of the municipal workers’ strike—a cursory virtual stroll through the area doesn’t appear to depict any unusual quantity of refuse.)
So far, “about a dozen and a half, maybe two dozen” businesses have contacted Bambrick to express their interest in Google entering their premises. “People see it as a value-add that allows more customers to check out what’s going on in their shop and make a decision to come and shop there,” she says.
Google originally approached Bambrick with an email expressing their interest in the area’s unique qualities. But she says they won’t tell her who else in the city they’ve gotten in touch with, citing confidentiality. When she inquired as to whether they’d approached other BIAs, Bambrick says she received a one-word response: “Yes.”
“My sense is that they’re really averse to anyone knowing they’re coming,” she says, also mentioning that they’re nervous about media attention. “They don’t want people to do the whole set-ups in the street, they just want to get it—and get what they get—and not have people do staged things.”
In a place as routinely idiosyncratic as Kensington, however, telling the difference wouldn’t necessarily be that easy.