February 6, 2013 8:30 am
The Grand Canyon is one of the greatest geological wonders in the world. A deep, twisting canyon that descends nearly a mile deep and stretches over 270 miles long, the canyon attracts millions of visitors each year. But the hike to the bottom is strenuous and steep, and for many Arizona is hard to get to. Never fear, wary travelers: Google has your back.
Now, thanks to Google, you don’t need a plane ticket or hiking boots to experience some of the geologic magic. The World Wonders Project puts you there, on the famous Bright Angel trail that leads you from the south rim, sweeps down the Black Bridge, crosses the Colorado River and heads to the Phantom Ranch camp site. Zooming around on the trail sort of feels like a video game, as you click and move and discover new views of the park.
Here’s how they got all that data:
The Grand Canyon project is the first to utilize Trekker, a backpack-mounted camera apparatus worn by a hiker that takes a picture every 2.5 seconds. Trekker weighs 40 pounds and is operated by an Android phone held by the hiker. It has 15 cameras pointed in different angles that can be combined to create panoramic views.
Follow the South Kaibab Trail to Skeleton Point for majestic 360-degree views of the misty blue Canyon. It took three days to capture the main trails of the Canyon’s south rim. Two teams hiked down the Bright Angel Trail, camped at Phantom Ranch and hiked out the next day along the South Kaibab Trail. Another team stayed at the top, collecting images from the rim and from Meteor Crater outside the park.
Google, when they unveiled the Trekker technology, said this:
The rugged terrain, ridges and steep trails of the Grand Canyon are the perfect setting to showcase the functionality of the Trekker. The narrow trails would be inaccessible to our traditional Street View cars, trikes, and trolleys, but is perfect for the wearable Trekker backpack. The compact size of the Trekker makes it unobtrusive and easy to maneuver, while automatically gathering images as it goes. The Trekker is operated by an Android device and consists of 15 lenses at the top of the mast, each angled in a different direction that will enable us to stitch together a 360-degree panoramic view.
The result isn’t quite the same as hiking the canyon yourself, but it’s pretty magical still.
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