Internet mapping can do things paper maps can only dream of. Online services not only provide directions, they connect to satellite imaging systems. You can use the technology to see your neighborhood, your street and your house. The maps won't provide you with a real-time image -- your kids playing outside, say -- but the level of detail is amazing.
Enter your address in the search feature on Google Maps to bring up a map of your neighborhood. Somewhere on the image you'll see a box offering a choice between "Map" and "Satellite." Click "Satellite" and you get the overhead view. As you zoom in, the resolution becomes increasingly detailed. Eventually you'll see your own house, though you may have to shift the boundaries of the map to keep your house in view.
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Mapping With Bing
Microsoft's Bing search engine offers its own map service, which works on similar principles. Type your address in and you bring up the street map. To get the satellite view, you click the "Bird's eye" view tab on the map. Zoom in until you get the resolution you want. The compass symbol in one corner of the map allows you to rotate the image so you can view your house from front, back or sides.
MapQuest, Yahoo Maps and other services work similarly. Put in the name, switch to satellite, zoom in. Depending on the location, you may find you're able to get a better image with one service over another. With any mapping site, zooming back out or shifting the boundaries of the map will give you a view of your house and how it relates to the neighborhood around you -- streets, other houses, major intersections and so on.
You can find satellite images not only on your computer but using a mobile mapping app. On Google Maps for the iPhone, for instance, the "i" symbol in one corner of the app brings up the option to turn a regular map into a satellite map. The imagery may not be as sharp as what you get on a desktop or laptop, though. The exact process varies with your app and your mobile platform.
Google's Street View and similar systems use a different approach. Rather than going with satellite imagery, Google sent people traveling across America snapping photos as they went. Combining the photos with GPS to get the exact location, they create street-level panoramas that allow you to see your house, then rotate the image to see the rest of your street. Street View is available in many parts of the world, but is far from universal.