Explore Google Street View With a Soundtrack Chosen by AI

Tony Hisgett, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 2.0
Tony Hisgett, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 2.0 / Tony Hisgett, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 2.0

Google Street View is the closest you can get to globetrotting without leaving your living room. The technology features 360-degree views of thousands of locations that anyone can view by dragging their cursor across their computer screen. Now, a media artist has made the immersive experience even more realistic. As Co.Design reports, Nao Tokui’s new project Imaginary Soundscape pairs Google Street View locations with soundtracks chosen by AI.

The background noises are designed to feel like they were recorded in the same place that was photographed. Views of the inside of the Spanish church Sagrada Familia come with the sound of chatter echoing against high ceilings; pictures of the Westminster Bridge Road in London are accompanied by soft engine roars and background conversation in British accents; the view of a forest pilgrimage path in Japan is paired with chipping insects and birds and snapping twigs.

But unlike the images, the noises aren’t attached to each specific place. Rather, they’re open source audio tracks the AI system thought would fit well with the scene based on its visual information. Tokui and his team used two neural networks developed by MIT to build Imaginary Soundscape. The results, which include background noise for all of Street View, are available on the project’s website.

Search your address to see if the AI gets it right, or just select “random” to get an idea of the full range of soundtracks. The program isn't always spot-on (pictures of an empty Tokyo Station are accompanied by firework sounds, for example), but when it is, it’s easy to feel you’ve been transported away from your computer for a moment.

[h/t Co.Design]