Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Google mapping roadless places; some see risks

Google Street View has mapped more than 3,000 cities all over the world, as well as many rural areas. But now the Internet giant is tackling America's natural spaces. The company plans to map wild places across the country, and eventually the world, with Google Trekker, a 40 pound backpack-like contraption that contains much of the equipment found in Google's Street View cars. Google hopes to map everything from the Appalachian Trail to Antarctica, and maybe Mount Everest. (NPR photo: Google's Craig Robinson with Google Trekker)

Google Trekker's inaugural journey was into the Grand Canyon. It snapped pictures and collected Global Positioning System data with its 15 specially designed lenses and two GPS receivers. Google plans to map places its cars can't go, and Street View director Luc Vincent said they came to the Grand Canyon first because it is "iconic," Steve Henn of NPR reports. Each image collected will be tagged with precise location data and the angle at which the photo was taken. Vincent said data has to be precise because Trekker is going to places where GPS is sometimes not reliable.

"The end result will be a smooth, continuous eye-level view of the trial," Henn reports. "It will allow anyone who is online -- at home or with a smart phone -- to virtually peer down the Bright Angle trail and see the sun stream over the rim of the canyon walls." Grand Canyon National Park public affairs director Maureen Oltrogge told Hunn she worries Google backcountry maps could give hikers a false impression of trials because Google only maps on sunny, good-weather days. She said it's possible hikers would not be prepared, which could put them in danger. (Read more)

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