Google’s Underwater Maps is a Marvel.

Author DEREK GORDON is a marketing and sales exec with more than 20 years success in integrated marketing and sales strategy and management. He is the Chief Marketing and Sales Officer for Pathbrite.

Summer is officially over and, if you’re at all like me, you’re already grieving the vacation not taken. Which is why Google’s latest service – Google Street View, Oceans Collection – is such a surprise and delight.

While Google Street View has taken us to some pretty amazing places, including the Kennedy Space Center, the Amazon Forest and even the South Pole, it’s the first time it has taken us under the sea. What makes this more remarkable is the fact that just about 5 percent of the world’s oceans has been explored by humans.

Which is why Google has started modestly: 360-degree imagery of six well-known offshore locations in Hawaii, Australia and the Philippines. Still, the results are spectacular, and the Oceans Collection really is a see-it-to-believe-it experience 

For instance, the tour Google provides of Heron Island on the Great Barrier Reef off the northern coast of Australia is amazing. As you explore the underwater reefs, come up for air and take a walk on the adjoining beach, you feel as if you were actually there.

Other locations in the Oceans Collection include Lady Elliott Island on the Great Barrier Reef; Molokini Crater off Maui and Hanauma Bay in Oahu, Hawaii; and the Apo Islands in the Philippines.

The Atlantic’s John Metcalfe explains how Google did it:

For this project, Google teamed up with the Catlin Seaview Survey, an international team of researchers based at the University of Queensland devoted to saving the world's imperiled reefs. As the Seaview folks point out, the world has lost up to half of its reefs in just the past 30 years, partly due to ocean acidification caused by anthropogenic climate change. The team's divers are lugging a 360-degree panoramic camera (the "SVII") through the ocean to create a baseline survey of the current health of reefs, which would be a valuable tool for marine biologists.

People come back to Google over and over again because it delivers on its core products so consistently and so excellently (unlike Apple’s new iOS 6 maps app…) But what makes people fall in love with Google, or Apple for that matter, is the fact that Google finds both small and large ways to dazzle. While some might question the wisdom of investing in a venture of this sort, the brand boost Google has gotten from constantly introducing “gee-whiz” features is paying off.

Want proof? Just yesterday Google displaced Microsoft as the second most valuable tech company in the world. That would be second only to – you guessed it – Apple.

Never underestimate the power of surprise and delight.

Author DEREK GORDON is a marketing and sales exec with more than 20 years success in integrated marketing and sales strategy and management. He is the Chief Marketing and Sales Officer for Pathbrite. You can also check out his blog, Daily Casserole.

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