Google Maps Street View has just turned 15 and Google is using its birthday to announce an all-new camera that will bring the street recording service to new regions.

Previous Street View cameras have been mounted on the back of a camel, given a ride on a snowmobile, and even taken into space, but there are still a lot of areas that the service hasn’t mapped. According to the official Google blog, new camera hopes to change that by shrinking the device down to something about the size of a house cat.

Not only is it small, but it’s relatively light too at just 15lbs (6.8Kg) – especially compared to the 44lbs (20Kg) Trekker contraption it uses currently in remote areas. Part of this weight saving is thanks to the camera’s modular design. Rather than being a device that can do everything, and being heavy as a result, this new Street View snapper can be customized allowing mappers to add and remove components as required.

(Image credit: Google)

Google hopes that this new lighter design will allow Street View to venture into new regions, like up to mountain peaks or into the heart of rainforests – or even just through a town’s narrower streets.

The view from the road isn’t being forgotten about either. This new camera can also be mounted to any vehicle with a roof rack and operated from a mobile device – no other specialized equipment is required. Google says that this should help it find more sustainable hybrids or fully electric vehicles to work as part of its fleet, as well as expand the service with new partners.

Right now the new camera is being piloted, but the plan is for the snapper to become a fully-fledged part of the Google Street View fleet next year.

For those after a more immediate Street View update, Google has also announced that Street View’s time travel feature is now available on the mobile app. This feature was previously PC exclusive and lets Google Maps users open up old archived images so that they can explore a past version of a certain location.

If you’re looking for other Google Maps and Street View features then you might want to check out five things you didn’t know Google Maps could do. And when you’re done, why not also read about five more hidden Google Maps features.

We also have 5 things that you didn’t know Google can do if you want a fun distraction

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