Google StreetView quits the street to capture UK history

The world is coming to StreetView -- including the beautiful yet hard to reach parts of it, thanks to a backpack-carried 'Trekker' photography system and Google Maps, with the latest venture setting out to capture the historically fascinating canal banks and riversides of the UK.

StreetView gets off the streets

That's not to say the US hasn't had a slice of this new technology, too: Take that story of Gregg Matthews and Chris Officer, who are walking Florida's entire 1,320-kilometer coastline as part of a project to create 360-degree views of every beach on Google Maps.

This project has gone international today, with one of the UK's biggest national charities, The Canals And Rivers Trust, announcing that Google's Street View Trecker is setting out on a journey to capture the country's 200-year old network of rivers and canals.

What is Trecker? It's a 40-pound,  4-foot backpack that's been fitted with a 15-angle lens camera system that's capable of taking 360-degree pictures every 2.5 seconds. In a UK first., Google has agreed to lend Trecker to take pictures of the canals and waterways across this country under the Canals and Rivers Trust.

Volunteers from the Trust will this weekend begin walking the Trecker across 100 miles of the UK's 2,000-mile canal and river system to capture footage of some of the country's most scenic waterway locations for the first time. These systems comprise the UK's biggest public access park, and the Trust aims to capture the full extent of this network under its new Google partnership.

Climb every mountain, forge every stream

The beauty of Google Trecker is that it can reach the places the Google cars and Trikes just can't get to. This backpack-toted camera system is the contraption that captured the Grand Canyon, the world's tallest building, Burj Khalifa, and some of the world's highest peaks -- images of which are now or will be made available on Street View. Google published a fascinating behind the scenes look at how it achieved this today.

Wendy Hawk, corporate partnerships manager of the Canal & River Trust, said: “We’re delighted to be the first people in the UK to get the Trekker on our backs -- it’s fantastic that our 200-year old network is being given a different lease of life thanks to cutting edge, 21st-century technology. The footage we get will allow millions of people from all over the world to see our canals, rivers and towpaths, and will hopefully encourage some people to make a trip to see them.”

Pascale Milite from Google, said: “We are thrilled to be collaborating with the Canal & River Trust on such a fun project, and we hope to help boost the discovery of and make these historical canals accessible to more people in the UK and across the world through Street View technology.”

This is part of a huge project on Google's part -- the company is lending similar systems to organizations across the planet as it attempts to improve Google Maps. (And in a little joke it even slapped Doctor Who's TARDIS into StreetView the other day).

While it's certainly true an Appleholic like myself may easily regret that these images are not being made available via other mapping services, unlike the freely available Web-based data upon which Google's fortunes were built, it does seem kind of cool that one day every evocative portion of this planet will be available within StreetView -- to the extent that those location tagged video messages left by Google Glass users may create a fascinating digital archive.

I'm curious to see if Apple has a response.

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