Internet giant Google has taken its all-seeing eyes – mounted for the first time on a backpack – into America’s Grand Canyon, to show the attraction’s most popular hiking trails.
The move 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 sights they may have read about only in tourist books and seen in flat two-dimensional 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 are not 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 programme 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.
The trekker technology 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 stitches the images together and makes them available to users in a few months.
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 Europe and Australia for scooping up information transmitted over unsecured wireless networks.