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This Incredible Google Experiment Lets You Time Travel to Your Ancestors' Hometown 200 Years Ago

29 Oct 2020 9:39 AM | Anonymous

Nate Berg has published an article in the Fast Company web site that will interest many genealogists. He describes his latest project as a virtual reality trip through your home town 200 years ago. However, if it was me, I'd be more interested in seeing my ancestors' home towns of 200 years ago.

Old fire insurance maps of several major U.S. cities have already been converted to virtual reality. The map, called “rǝ,” is a project Raimondas Kiveris has led through his research into artificial intelligence and machine learning at Google. Though still in a very early form, the map is functional enough to offer a glimpse of what someone would have seen on a city street decades in the past.

The map was created using historical fire insurance maps, a rich source of information for the built environment that includes precise information about building ages, sizes, heights, roof shapes, and even materials. The map creates simplified 3D models of these buildings, and the time slider allows a user to see, for example, Washington, D.C.’s Dupont Circle nearly devoid of buildings in the 1870s and almost fully developed in the 1920s.

Eventually, with enough visual data contributed, Kiveris says the map will be able to create lifelike representations of entire neighborhoods that could be good enough to use as the setting for video games or even movies. “If it’s not possible today, it will be possible in five years,” he says.

You can read a lot more about this project at:

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