Google Maps the Grand Canyon

Google recently set out to map the National Park, beginning from the Bright Angel trailhead to Phantom Ranch at the bottom. Making it all possible was Trekker, a futuristic device comprised of 15 camera lenses that fire off 5 mega pixel photos every 2.5 seconds.

The Trekker, which weights 40 pounds, is controlled by an Android smart phone (as you’d suspect) running an HTML 5 app. This app turns the trekker on and off, and also acts as a real-time editor.

“We want to be comprehensive with maps. We want to go everywhere,” said Luc Vincent, the senior engineer who oversaw Trekker’s development. “That’s what we are about. And so we could not possibly be comprehensive without this. It’s our core mission with Street View.”

Teams of two descended the trail. This strategy enables Google to get two sets of images from which to choose. It also ensures that if one Trekker unit goes down, there’s another still capturing data.

Anyone who’s hiked Bright Angel knows it’s a challenge. It also got the better of two Googlers. Engineers Ben Salavador and Tommy Liu were tasked to go halfway down but cut their trip short, exhausted and sweat-drenched.

Read full article as it appeared in Wired Magazine

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