By Michelle Werts
I tend to be adverse to technology. I have a “dumb” cell phone that is mainly used for phone calls, although an occasional text will pass its way. I prefer my books as physical books — can I admit that on a blog about forests? When going places, I rely on handwritten directions and a good ol’ map versus a GPS. But one piece of technology that I’ve always found simultaneously useful, fascinating and creepy is Google Street View. And last week, those crazy individuals — and by crazy, I mean über-talented — at Google announced that they were taking their street view to a whole new level.
In the past, their maps have been limited to places that you could get to using motorized vehicles like cars, snowmobiles, trolleys and, in the case of the Amazon and its rainforest, boat. Foot-based expeditions, though, were verboten, as the equipment wasn’t conducive for such trips. All of that has now changed with the unveiling of Google’s 40-pound, backpack-style Street View Trekker.
According to engadget.com, the device took Google a year to build, features 15 five-megapixel cameras that capture images to a hard drive and runs off a computer powered by Android. All of this technology in a backpack form will enable someone to simply strap on the pack and set off into the great unknown, while the cameras record a 360-degree view of the trek that will then be uploaded to Google and placed online for all to enjoy. Because the Street View Trekker will be subjected to individuals scrabbling around uneven terrain, eventually, Google hopes to make the device smart enough to analyze one’s gait and enable it to make adjustments for unusual vibrations.
The Google team has already tested the Trekker on ski slopes and hopes to soon take it to the Grand Canyon and other national parks, as well as historic castles and ruins. Now, while I highly recommend getting out to see these places in person — as nothing beats seeing natural wonders up close and personal — I applaud Google for helping celebrate these places by documenting them for people who might not be able to make the trek to these environmental icons. As something designed to share the beauty of the world with people around the world, this is one piece of technology I think I can get behind.