By now, you’re probably familiar with Google’s Street View car, which helps provide a first-person perspective of virtually any street address in the United States and 38 other countries. It can help you locate a stubbornly hidden business, scope out new neighborhoods you’re considering moving to or check out damage from the 2011 Japanese tsunami, all without leaving the comfort of your home computer. But have you ever wondered how Google gets Street View-like shots of places without streets, like inside art museums and the Grand Canyon?
The secret is the Google Trekker, a backpack camera designed to “collect imagery of hard to reach places.” And starting today, if you’re a member of a “tourist board, non-profit, government agency, university or research group,” you can request to borrow Google’s 40-pound Trekker camera to help bring Street View to your favorite, out-of-the-way spots.
The camera itself is made up of 15 different lenses, together capable of capturing 360-degree panoramic views every 2.5 seconds. But will the Trekker, which can theoretically go anywhere on Earth, capture images of things it shouldn’t? Almost certainly – after all, Google Street View has already captured plenty of embarrassing images of people leaving strip clubs, naked sunbathers and criminals being arrested. But given that the Trekker is likely to focus on national parks and other off-the-beaten path locations, there will be fewer otherwise innocent strip club enthusiasts caught off guard. Google also requests locations give permission before filming begins.
If you and your friends are planning an interesting hiking trip up the Appalachians, a canoeing trip down the Colorado River or any other adventure you think might look interesting mapped in Street View, Google wants to hear from you. To apply for a loaner camera, visit the Google Street View Trekker Projects page and fill out the required information.