Google Takes Users On A Virtual Trip Down The Amazon River
March 23, 2012

Google Takes Users On A Virtual Trip Down The Amazon River

Google announced Street View Amazon on Wednesday, a project that allows users to take a 360 degree virtual tour of the Rio Negro reserve portion of the Amazon River.

A spin on their popular online map service, Street View Amazon was stitched together with pictures taken along to the Rio Negro. Google used cameras mounted to three wheeled bicycles and traveled along the river and adjoining jungles and villages to capture the images used for the project.

“Take a virtual boat ride down the main section of the Rio Negro, and float up into the smaller tributaries where the forest is flooded,” Google Street View Amazon project lead Karin Tuxen-Bettman said in a blog post. “Enjoy a hike along an Amazon forest trail and see where Brazil nuts are harvested,” she continued. “You can even see a forest critter if you look hard enough.”

Viewers can also see images from Tumbria, the largest community in the Rio Negro reserve, as well as other communities along the way.

The Google team hopes that this project will help to spread awareness and knowledge about this beautiful and mysterious part of the world.

“We hope this Street View collection provides access to this special corner of the planet that many of us otherwise wouldn´t have the chance to experience,” Tuxen-Bettman said. “We´re thrilled to help everyone from researchers and scientists to armchair explorers around the world learn more about the Amazon and better understand how local communities there are working to preserve this unique environment for future generations.”

Using the same “trikes” used to capture the scenes in Google Maps Street View, Google launched the project in August 2011 as an internet first: To allow users at home a chance to explore the mighty Amazon and its surroundings.

The Amazonas Sustainable Foundation (FAS) came up with the idea and brought it to the Google Earth team. They had envisioned a project where users could take a stroll through the Amazon just as they could through their childhood neighborhood.

“It is incredible,” FAS project leader Gabriel Ribenboim told AFP as trikes went into action both on land and on boats. “It is very important to show the world not only the environment and the way of life of the traditional population, but to sensitize the world to the challenges of climate change, deforestation and combating poverty.”

By combining thousands of images with GPS locating services, the pictures taken by the trikes are specifically woven into the Google Maps service to provide a virtual image of the surrounding area.

Google Earth team members taught FAS members and local residents how to use the trikes, as well as how to use a special camera to take pictures inside of school buildings and other public centers. The cameras utilized a fish-eye lens to take wide images from the ground to the sky. These images were used to create virtual walking trails through the jungle.

“We want the world to see that the Amazon is not a place only with plants and animals,” said FAS chief executive Virgilio Viana. “It is also a place with people, and people who are not completely at odds with the current thinking of global sustainability.”

The initial goal of the project was to capture images from a 30 mile stretch of the Rio Negro. The teams involved will leave behind camera gear and train a local team to continue taking images to contribute to the project, expanding its scope.