June 13, 2012

Google Backpack Camera To Map World’s Most Remote Areas

Google is taking the next step in its quest to map out the world, launching a new “Street View Trekker” backpack camera that, when carried by foot, can chart anyplace on Earth, from difficult mountainous terrain to jungle tracks to the narrowest urban alleys.

The Internet search giant said the 40-lb. backpack camera represents "another step forward" in its move to create a comprehensive map of the world.

"There's a whole wilderness out there that is only accessible by foot. Trekker solves that problem by enabling us to photograph beautiful places such as the Grand Canyon so anyone can explore them,” Google said at its Street View Trekker launch earlier this month.

The announcement follows news that Google plans to use airplane-mounted cameras to generate 3D maps for entire cities for use on its mobile devices.

Google has received strong criticism in recent years for using its Street View cars to photograph entire cities at the street level. The cars, it was later revealed, also gathered personal information from unsecured household Wi-Fi networks.

The backpack device holds several 15-megapixel cameras, a hard drive and a battery that will last an entire day.  The cameras are positioned to give a 360-degree view that will capture every possible angle.

Google´s Street View Trekker comes one week after news that Apple had recruited a private fleet of airplanes equipped with military standard cameras to produce 3D maps accurate enough to film people in their homes through skylights.

Apple said its "Maps" program for iPhones and iPads would give users the ability to view images previously out of reach to anyone but the intelligence services.

Google confirmed that only a handful of its backpack cameras had been made so far, but did not disclose whether it intends to make more.

The company said it expects to have 3D map coverage of towns and cities with a combined population of 300 million people by the end of the year.

Civil liberties advocates have warned that the ongoing battle between Apple and Google to map the world means privacy will be compromised.