DUBAI // Tourists can now visit the Burj Khalifa, explore areas not usually accessible to the public and enjoying astonishing 360-degree panoramic views – without leaving their armchairs.
The internet giant Google has incorporated the world’s tallest building into the Street View section of its Google Maps service, the first time Street View has been used in the Arab world.
The Burj joins other international landmarks showcased on the service such as the Eiffel Tower, the White House and the Everest base camp.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, the Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, was given a special preview of the service before its worldwide launch yesterday.
He commended the efforts of Google in building a “digital mirror to reality” and for creating bridges of human interaction between people around the world.
“We welcome visitors not only in the UAE, but now also virtual visitors from all over the world online to see the tallest building built by man,” Sheikh Mohammed said on Twitter.
“The Burj Khalifa embodies the aspirations of Emiratis. I am pleased to launch a project that allows more than a billion internet users around the world to roam through the Burj Khalifa.”
The standard version of Street View enables users to navigate their way through composite ground-level images of street scenes that are photographed by a fleet of specially adapted cars.
The Burj Khalifa capture takes the service to new heights – literally: cutting-edge camera equipment was used to take images both inside and outside the building and record stunning views of Dubai.
An operator carrying a device known as a trekker, a backpack camera system with 15 lenses pointing in different directions, circled the exterior of the 80th floor while standing on a maintenance platform.
Street View equipment had never been used in a skyscraper before, and the trekker had never been used at such heights.
The device was developed by Google to film winding, narrow paths, remote sites and other locations that could be photographed only on foot. It was first used in the Grand Canyon and has since been deployed on the Galapagos Islands. Photos are taken every 2.5 seconds as the operator walks along.
Shots inside the Burj were taken using a camera system fitted to a trolley during the three-day shoot last month.
Familiar areas such as the At The Top viewing platform on the 124th floor and the Dubai Fountain were photographed, but users can also see parts of the building that are normally hidden from public view.
These include the residents’ lounge and lobby on the 43rd floor, the outdoor swimming pool on the same floor, the health club, lounge and exterior deck on the 76th floor, conference suites on the 152nd, 153rd and 154th floors and an outdoor terrace on the 160th floor.
A member of the team even climbed up through the spire to the very top of the 828-metre high building, where he swung open a hatch and peered out at heart-stopping views across the city while being battered by 40mph winds.
The images from the spire will be added later.
“We are so proud that Google has selected Dubai’s iconic Burj Khalifa for its first skyscraper,” said Mohammed Gawdat, vice president of Google in the Middle East and North Africa.
“The images are breathtaking and the Burj Khalifa is a beaming example of the vision and achievements of this nation.”
There have been a number of privacy concerns about Street View, but the faces of the people captured in the Burj Khalifa images have been blurred.
“We will absolutely try to do our best to make it as protective of people’s privacy as possible,” Mr Gawdat said.
Street View was launched in 2007, and images of 3,000 cities in 50 countries are now available. Google Maps has more than a billion worldwide users a month. Google has offices at Dubai Internet City.
The Burj Khalifa tour can be seen at www.google.ae/streetview
- With additional reporting by Ola Salem