Cherry Blossoms Bloom on Any Street with Google Maps Hack
Lux brings beautiful sakura trees to the PSFK offices (and beyond)
During the month of April, from Tokyo to cities as far as Istanbul, Vancouver and Washington D.C, people gather outside to enjoy blooming cherry trees, which blanket parks, streets, and public spaces with their soft pink flowers. For those who can’t find such foliage nearby, Japanese cosmetics brand Lux has hacked Google Maps to bring cherry blossoms to any street.
Launched this month to coincide with the annual blooming cycle, Sakura Dream is a web page application that replaces flora in any Google Maps street view with “sakura” (cherry) trees. Users can input their own addresses, or choose to see popular destinations such as Paris, New York and Miami covered in blossoms.
Lux, a Unilever cosmetics brand popular in Japan, launched Sakura Dream with descriptive and symbolic intentions. The floral imagery reinforces Lux’s brand promise to provide fresh, fragrant products, while the emphasis on cherry blossoms is a direct nod to Japan’s cultural identity. Cherry blossoms are a national symbol for Japanese spirit and natural bounty; there is even a Japanese term, hanami, that defines the act of picnicking under these flowering trees.
For all its beauty, Sakura Dream does present some frustrations: its overlay slows down browser speed considerably, and page text is available only in Japanese (with a clunky Google browser translation).
What is lacks in functionality, Sakura Dream makes up in social sharing: photo stills can be edited (with text, filter and stamp options) and shared on Facebook, Twitter and Google+ or downloaded.
Lux isn’t the only recent player harnessing the power of Google Maps to provide users with a “local” experience. By merging digital experiences and physical locations, Sakura Dream suggests that a future of augmented reality (or, for the time being, augmented landscapes) is something consumers want—and brands are willing to provide.