Google cameras map Grand Canyon trailsWednesday 24 October 2012 13.36
Google and its street-view cameras already have taken users to narrow cobblestone alleys in Spain using a tricycle, inside the Smithsonian with a push cart and up British Columbia's snow-covered slopes by snowmobile.
The search giant now has brought its all-seeing eyes, mounted for the first time on a backpack, into the Grand Canyon, showcasing the US attraction's most popular hiking trails.
It is the latest evolution in mapping technology for the company, which has photographed thousands of cities in dozens of countries for its Street View feature.
With a click of the mouse, Internet users are transported virtually for a 360-degree view of locales they may have read about only in tourist books and seen in flat, 2-D images.
"Any of these sort of iconic, cultural, historical locations that are not accessible by road is where we want to go," said Ryan Falor, product manager at Google.
Google announced the trekker earlier this year but made its first official collection of data this week at the Grand Canyon.
The backpacks aren't ready for volunteer use, but Google has said it wants to deploy them at national forests, to the narrow streets of Venice, Mount Everest and to ancient ruins and castles.
The move to capture the Grand Canyon comes after Apple chose to drop Google Maps from its mobile operating systems and use its own mapping program that was derided for, among other things, poor directions and missing towns.
Google launched its Street View feature in 2007 and has expanded from five US cities to more than 3,000 in 43 countries.
As the sun rose Monday, Luc Vincent, Google engineering director, strapped on one of the 18kg backpacks and set down the Bright Angel Trail to the Colorado River, a nearly 16km hike.
The so-called trekker captures images every 2.5 seconds with 15 cameras that are 5 megapixels each.
The GPS data is limited, so Google must compensate with sensors that record temperature, vibrations and the orientation of the device as it changes, before it stiches the images together and makes them available to users in a few months, Falor said.
Hikers that were on the trail when the data was gathered will have their faces blurred - an attempt by Google to ensure privacy.
Street View has run into problems in places like Europe and Australia for scooping up information transmitted over unsecured wireless networks.