Take a Virtual Tour of Robben Island Where Nelson Mandela and Other Apartheid Opponents Were Jailed

Ted Mills recently told you all about the Google-powered virtual tour of Abbey Road Studios. What shouldn't go without mention is the new, Google-powered virtual tour of Robben Island -- "the island where Nelson Mandela and many of South Africa’s freedom fighters were imprisoned during their quest for equality." Along with over 3,000 political prisoners, Nelson Mandela spent 18 years imprisoned here, much of the time confined to a 8 x 7 foot prison cell. (Don't forget Mandela also spent another nine years in Pollsmoor Prison and Victor Verster Prison.)

All of the Robben Island tours are conducted by ex-prisoners. On the new virtual tour, you will encounter Vusumsi Mcongo (see above), a member of the anti-Apartheid movement who was jailed on Robben Island from 1978 to 1990.

You can start the tour of the maximum security prison and UNESCO World Heritage Site here.

via Google

Dan Colman is the founder/editor of Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus and LinkedIn and  share intelligent media with your friends. Or better yet, sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox.

Take a Virtual Tour of Abbey Road Studios, Courtesy of the New Google Site “Inside Abbey Road”

Once again, Google quietly drops a nifty piece of interactive webbery and acts like it ain’t no big deal.

Google's new web site, Inside Abbey Road, lets viewers walk inside Abbey Road Studios, check out the famous recording studio (home to most of the Beatles’ songs, birthplace of Dark Side of the Moon, Radiohead’s The Bends, Kanye West's Late Registration, the list goes on) inspect the rooms, and watch interviews and mini-docs. It also matches up iconic photos (including the one shot outside of the famous crosswalk) with the studio today. The site is a collaboration between Google and the studio to celebrate over 80 years of music history.

Inside Abbey Road

Abbey Road existed before the Fab Four and Cliff Richard, of course, and the new site includes footage of composer Sir Edward Elgar opening the studio in 1931 and conducting a recording of “Land of Hope and Glory.”

There’s plenty of modern footage too, from Kylie Minogue and Robbie Williams to Take That and Sigur Rós. You have to poke around a little bit to find everything, but the site includes a map in case you get lost.

abbey road beatles

You can also have a go at mixing a four-track recording in the control booth, fool around on the J37 tape deck that was the height of tech during the time of Sgt. Pepper, and try to find the rumored echo chamber. (Trust me, it’s there.)

abbey road board

If you want to take a break outside and watch a real-time version of this digital location, there’s always the Abbey Road traffic cam, where you watch a whole bunch of tourists try to get their Beatles on without getting hit by an irate lorry driver. Here's OC editor, Dan Colman, captured on the webcam just last week.

Take your virtual tour of Abbey Road here.

Related Content:

Paul McCartney’s Conceptual Drawings For the Abbey Road Cover and Magical Mystery Tour Film

A Short Film on the Famous Crosswalk From the Beatles’ Abbey Road Album Cover

Watch Documentaries on the Making of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here

Chaos & Creation at Abbey Road: Paul McCartney Revisits The Beatles’ Fabled Recording Studio

Ted Mills is a freelance writer on the arts who currently hosts the FunkZone Podcast. You can also follow him on Twitter at @tedmills and/or watch his films here.

Google Puts Online 10,000 Works of Street Art from Across the Globe


Circling Birdies by Cheko, Granada Spain

Since last we wrote, Google Street Art has doubled its online archive by adding some 5,000 images, bringing the tally to 10,000, with coordinates pinpointing exact locations on all five continents (though as of this writing, things are a bit thin on the ground in Africa). Given the temporal realities of outdoor, guerrilla art, pilgrims may arrive to find a blank canvas where graffiti once flourished. (RIP New York City’s 5 Pointz, the “Institute of Higher Burning.”)

A major aim of the project is virtual preservation. As with performance art, documentation is key. Not all of the work can be attributed, but click on an image to see what is known. Guided tours to neighborhoods rich with street art allow armchair travelers to experience the work, and interviews with the artists dispel any number of stereotypes.

Cultural institutions like Turkey’s Pera Museum and Hong Kong’s Art Research Institute, and street art projects based in such hubs as Rome, Paris, Sydney, and Bangkok, have pulled together official collections of photos and videos, but you can play curator too.

It’s easy to add images to a collection of your own making that can be shared with the public at large or saved for private inspiration. Careful, you could lose hours…it’s like Pinterest for people who gravitate toward spray paint and rubbish strewn vacant lots over gingham wrapped Mason jars.

It’s been a long and brutal winter here on the east coast, so for my first foray, I prowled for Signs of Spring. One of my first hits was “Circling Birdies” by Cheko, above. Located in Granada, Spain, it's one of the existing works Google has turned into a GIF with some light, logical animation.

Behold a bit of what typing “flower,” “baby animals,” “plants,” and “trees” into a search box can yield! You can enter Google Street Art here.

Child With Windmill

Artist: Walter Kershaw
London UK


Artists: Thrashbird and Renee Gagnon
Los Angeles, California.

Baby Chick

Artist: unknown
Rochester, NY

Screen Shot 2015-03-19 at 11.07.58 PM

Icy and Sot
Rochester NY

Freedom Fighter

Artist: Kristy Sandoval
Los Angeles, CA

Natureza Viva

Artists: Regg and Violant
Alfragide Portugal


Artist: Klit
Alfragide, Portugal
A giant colorful beetle tries to fly between the ceiling and the floor of this parking lot. His wings seem filled with flower petals. So, the "Living Nature" project brought a set of huge insects that carry a note of living spirit to the space.

Deep Blue

Artist: Rai Cruz
Manila, Philippines

Artist: Christiaan Nagel
London, England

Untitled Rome
Artist: Lady Aiko
Rome, Italy


Artist: Andrew Kentish

Related Content:

Tour the World’s Street Art with Google Street Art

Obey the Giant: Short Film Presents the True Story of Shepard Fairey’s First Act of Street Art

Big Bang Big Boom: Graffiti Stop-Motion Animation Creatively Depicts the Evolution of Life

Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine. Follow her @AyunHalliday

Google Makes Available 750 Icons for Designers & Developers: All Open Source 

google icons

If you're a designer or developer, Kottke.org thought you'd might like to know: "As part of their Material Design visual language, Google has open-sourced a package of 750 icons. More info here."

Over at Github, you can view a live preview of the icons or download the icon pack now.

Our friends at BoingBoing add, "They're licensed CC-BY-SA and designed for use in mobile apps and other interactive stuff." Use them well.


Tour the World’s Street Art with Google Street Art

By far the most enjoyable part of our recent family trip to London was the afternoon my young son and I spent in Shoreditch, groping our way to No Brow, a comics shop I had noticed on an early morning stroll with our hostess. Our route was evidence that I had forgotten the coordinates, the street name, the name of the shop… Eventually, I realized we were lost, and that is where the real fun began, as we retraced our steps using street art as bread crumbs.

Ah right, there's  that rooftop mushroom installation!

And there's that Stik figure

After a while, a FedEx man took pity on us, ruining our fun by steering us toward the proper address..

I'm not sure I could ever duplicate our trail, but I enjoy trying with Google Street Art. Armchair travelers can use it to project themselves to the heart of ephemeral, possibly illegal exhibitions all over the globe,.

Bogotá... Paris... New York's legendary 5 Pointz, before the landlord clutched and whitewashed the entire thing in the dead of night. Each up close photo bears a highly informational caption, much more than you'd find in the street itself. Think of it as an after-the-fact digital museum. It's appropriate, given the ephemeral nature of the work. An online presence is its best shot at preservation.

Those of us with something to contribute can add to the record with a user gallery or by tagging our photos with #StreetArtist.

Enter Google Street Art here.

Related Content:

Obey the Giant: Short Film Presents the True Story of Shepard Fairey’s First Act of Street Art

Banksy Creates a Tiny Replica of The Great Sphinx Of Giza In Queens

Big Bang Big Boom: Graffiti Stop-Motion Animation Creatively Depicts the Evolution of Life

Ayun Halliday is an author, homeschooler and the Chief Primatologist of The East Village Inky zine. Follow her @AyunHalliday

New Google-Powered Site Tracks Global Deforestation in ‘Near-Real-Time’

In September we told you about trillions of satellite images of Earth, generated by the Landsat, that are now available to the public.

Now we can share an interactive tool that is using some of those Landsat images to stop illegal deforestation.

With help from Google Earth Engine, the World Resources Institute launched Global Forest Watch, an online forest monitoring and alert system that allows individual computer users to watch forests around the world change in an almost real-time stream of imagery.

Whistle blowers are making powerful use of the Global Forest Watch tool. Using spatial data streams available on the site to observe forest changes in southeastern Peru, a number of users submitted alerts about rapidly escalating deforestation near a gold mine and river valley. In another case, observers submitted an alert about illegal logging in the Republic of the Congo.

Five years ago, NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey lifted protocols that kept Landsat images proprietary. Now, agencies like the World Resources Institute—and even tiny citizen watchdog groups around the world—have access to incredibly rich tools and data. Some of the imagery is hard to interpret. Global Forest Watch developed a number of different data layers for users to apply, making it possible to monitor forest areas for trends or illegal logging. The video at the top of this page gives a good overview of how the site works. This one gives more detail about how to use the maps on the Global Forest Watch site.

Select an area of the world and then select a data set that interests you. Choose to look at terrain, satellite, road, tree height, or composite images of a particular region. Data layers can be layered on top of one another to show trends in forest management. In Indonesia, for example, you can use the FORMA alerts button to see what has already been reported in that area of the humid tropics.

How can you tell if forest change is due to illegal logging? Turn on the Forest Use filters to see which areas are authorized for logging and mining and which are protected. In Indonesia, many areas are designated for oil palm production, but expansion of those crops are often associated with loss of natural forest.

Do your own sleuthing. The site is designed to harness data from government and academic scientists, along with observation from individuals (us). There is even information about companies that are growing oil palm trees, so it’s possible that a diligent user could catch an over-aggressive grower stepping over the forest boundary.

Related Content:

A Planetary Perspective: Trillions of Pictures of the Earth Available Through Google Earth Engine

Trace Darwin’s Footsteps with Google’s New Virtual Tour of the Galapagos Islands

Reef View: Google Gives Us Stunning Underwater Shots of Great Coral Reefs

Kate Rix writes about digital media and education. Follow her on Twitter.

Google’s Music Timeline: A Visualization of 60 Years of Changing Musical Tastes

google music timeline

The state of music has changed radically in recent years. Of course, the largest change that springs to mind is Napster, the program that made collective musical sharing possible and triggered the inexorable decline in record sales in the early 2000s. Business model aside, however, the music industry has also weathered tremendously volatile changes in taste over the past half-century.

To see just how dramatic the changes in musical fashion have been, check out Google’s new Music Timeline, pictured above. This simple, color-coded chart displays the popularity of various genres from 1950 onwards (pre-50s sales data is just too spotty and inconsistent). While jazz record sales held the lion’s share of the market throughout much of the 1950’s, the advent of rock and pop acts such as the Beatles in the 1960s relegated jazz to the minor leagues.

metallica timeline

The timeline also allows you to look at the popularity of various bands throughout the course of their careers. Metallica, the litigious critics of Napster’s file-sharing ways, are an interesting example of the waxing and waning of a particular band’s success. Initial spike of popularity aside, as is clear from the image right above, the band had been relatively successful with each of their studio albums. After the release of their cover album in 1998, entitled Garage Inc., things quickly headed south. Whether it’s because of the Napster debacle of 2000, when the band's lawsuit effectively shut down the company, or a regrettable change of direction, many former fans simply weren't interested anymore.

Before fans come to the defense of whichever bands were slighted by Google’s visualization, a few caveats: the data used to judge relative success is derived from Google Play user libraries. The more users have an album, the more successful it’s deemed by the algorithm. Additionally, if you’re a classical music fan, you’re out of luck. For various logistical reasons, Google decided against its inclusion in the timeline.

For more information about Google’s Music Timeline, click here. For a Michael Hann’s first look review over at The Guardian’s music blog, which discusses the possible skews in the data, head this way.

Ilia Blinderman is a Montreal-based culture and science writer. Follow him at @iliablinderman.

Related Content:

The History of Music Told in Seven Rapidly Illustrated Minutes

100 Years of Rock in Less Than a Minute: From Gospel to Grunge

The Story of the Bass: New Video Gives Us 500 Years of Music History in 8 Minutes

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