By now, it’s a pretty safe bet that if you live in a city or town, you can probably have a look at the outside of your house – at least from the road – on Google Street View.
Google’s image capturing cars have been zipping about the globe since 2007 and, as a result of their efforts, the search engine giant can now provide a pretty comprehensive catalogue of every street, house, high-rise, landmark and cul-de-sac. However, the Street View cars have been somewhat limited in the data they can collect, since their activities have been restricted by road infrastructure.
Sure, they can provide a great shot of Big Ben in London, but they can’t exactly park on the top of Matsu Picchu and collect a panoramic shot capturing the grandeur of that famous Incan citadel.
Google’s been working on a fix for this problem – largely at the behest of users who want more shots of the wild – and its answer is the Google Trekker program. With the help of several partners, the search engine giant has begun building a swoon-worthy catalogue of some of the earth’s most beautiful vistas.
The Trekker is based on the design for Google’s Street View cars; imagine a backpack with one of those huge balls housing 360 degree cameras one usually sees on the roof of a Google car and you’re starting to get the idea.
As the wearer hikes through a trail or sails down a river, the Trekker takes in their surroundings in a 360 and beams the data live to Google. That way, if something happens to the Trekker – they take a tumble or run out of battery – they won’t have to retread their steps for Google to produce a picture of their past journey. While Google won’t confirm how much a Trekker unit costs, it did reveal that it weighs roughly 25kgs so individuals who have been capturing images with it have likely allotted their cardio requirements for this year.
Google’s been hard at work, you see, right here in South Africa. The first fruits of Trekker capturing popped up in March on the Mzansi Experience, and now Google has added images from Chapmans Peak Lookout, Lanner Gorge, Bourke’s Luck Potholes and ela Gorge Hike. So if you fancy checking out some of the country’s natural beauty you can now do so on your laptop or smart device.
Google says that there’s more to come; in the past 18 months, one of Google’s Trekker partners has accumulated 35TB of data, which includes images from 19 national park, 12 nature reserves, 170 trails, eight biodomes and eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
If you fancy becoming a Trekker yourself, you can apply on Google’s Trekker Homepage.