Like it did with its street-view cameras, Google is about to open up some of the Grand Canyon's hiking trails to its viewing audience. With cameras mounted to backpacks, Google employees are hiking into the canyon to photograph its splendor and the hike itself.
Early Monday, Luc Vincent, Google engineering director, strapped on one of the 40-pound backpacks and hiked down the Bright Angel Trail to the Colorado River, a nearly 10 mile hike that drops from 6,900 feet in elevation to 2,400 feet. He hiked back up from Phantom Ranch through the South Kaibab Trail and also gathered data on other trails.
The trekker, the apparatus that takes the pictures, captures images every 2.5 seconds with 15 cameras that are 5 megapixels. A removable hard drive on the trekker stores the data gathered at the Grand Canyon.
Hikers that were on the trail when the data was gathered will have their faces blurred to ensure privacy.
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.
The backpacks aren't ready for volunteer use, but Google has said it wants to deploy them at national forests and even Mount Everest.
Google launched its Street View feature in 2007 and has expanded from five U.S. cities to more than 3,000 in 43 countries. Google teams and volunteers have covered more than 5 million miles with the Street View vehicles.