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Amazon search pictures your destination

Amazon.com is mapping the streets of the US in an ambitious digital photography project to drive people into local businesses. The online retailer’s search unit, A9.com, is masterminding the project, which will eventually pair digital photos of storefronts and their surroundings to more than 14 million US business listings from around the country.

The company unveiled the first phase of its service, called A9.com Yellow Pages, with 20 million images from 10 cities, including San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago and New York.

People can call up a business listing to find contact information (with an Internet-to-phone dialing service), reviews, a local map and a photo of its facade. With a feature called “block view,” people can also click to see adjacent businesses or surrounding neighborhoods.

To accomplish this feat, the company has sent a handful of vans onto the streets of America, touring around with digital video cameras strapped to their rooftops. The cameras are synchronized to a GPS receivers so that A9 can map local addresses to their images once recorded onto a computer hard drive. Its has proprietary software to further map some images with addresses because GPS can be inexact.