Google's Street View Sherpas Tackle the Grand Canyon

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Despite all our robots, humans really are the best at certain tasks, like hiking the Grand Canyon.

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Google's Ryan Falor with a backpack and an Android phone (Google).

We're all familiar with the Google Street View cars at this point (and their Nokia cousins). They go buzzing around cities capturing data from the physical world. But there are places they cannot go, places that Google would really like to have imagery of, for example, say, the Grand Canyon. 

And so, Google being Google, they hacked together a solution: a backpack topped with the camera orb we know from the company's cars. The Trekker, as they call this new gear, is controlled via an (Android, obviously) phone and captures imagery automatically. 

The company showed off the Trekker in a June video and the Grand Canyon trip is its first official outing. Google stitches together these still images into the panoramas that you see on its maps site. 

The really exciting thing, though, is that you might someday see a guy outfitted like this walking through your local mall. Google, and all the other map companies, are hot to create indoor maps that are as good as their outdoor ones. The Trekker is one way they could do that. (Although certainly not the only way.)

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This is actually how everyone from Google looks when they go hiking. Except Sergey. He gets the glasses. (Google)

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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science website in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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