Is Google Street View the New Nature Documentary?
Google announced Thursday that they've taken their Street View cameras on a hiking trip around the Galapagos islands — above ground, and under water. This is great news for many nature-loving chair jockeys, especially for those of us already hopelessly addicted to GeoGuessr.
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As Slashdot notes, the Galapagos project is just one of the latest trips for the company's Street View tech to un-driveable parts of the world. They've been to the Grand Canyon. They've climbed mountains. From the photos, it looks like the Google hikers just strap a backpack on, with a portable, blue, circular camera complex looming above their heads, vaguely reminiscent of a portuguese man-of-war. They use a different rig underwater.
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Team Street View partnered with the Charles Darwin Foundation (CDF) and the Galapagos National Parks Directorate (GNPD) for the expedition. Google described the project in a Lat Long blog post:
Our 10-day adventure in the Galapagos was full of hiking, boating and diving around the islands (in hot and humid conditions) to capture 360-degree images of the unique wildlife and geological features of the islands with the Trekker. We captured imagery from 10 locations that were hand-selected by CDF and GNPD. We walked past giant tortoises and blue-footed boobies, navigated through steep trails and lava fields, and picked our way down the crater of an active volcano called Sierra Negra.
It sounds like the panoramic images resulting from the expedition, slated to go live later this year, will mix touristy spots on the islands with places that are off-limits to visitors. So rather than a complete mapping of the island, we'll get to visit a series of "scenes," picked by Google, the CDF, and the GNPD. That will, presumably, be a vast improvement over Google's current mapping of the islands, which allows for ground-level still images from selected spots on the islands. While Google Maps isn't exactly comparable to a full-blown nature documentary, it has already bridged the gap between mapping tool and exploratory aide: clicking and dragging one's way down an unfamiliar street, for instance, seems commonplace for many now. The Galapagos project looks like one more way for Google to further blur that line.