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Google Takes Street View Tech Into the Grand Canyon

“Google Maps has officially stepped into what may be its most difficult challenge yet — mapping the alleys, ledges and trails of the world unreachable by Street View’s cars, tricycles and snowmobiles. The effort formally began on foot Monday as Google took three of its Trekker backpacks down into the Grand Canyon for the new gadgetry’s maiden voyage.

“When we were designing Trekker, we really knew we wanted to take it to these rugged, remote locations,” said Ryan Falor, a product manager on Google’s Street View special collections team, at the top of the Grand Canyon’s Bright Angel Trail on Monday. “We worked really hard to make sure it was waterproof and could handle heat and cold and all kinds of abuse on the trail.”

The Trekker — which looks like a Ghostbuster’s Proton Pack with an oversized soccer ball mounted on top and a USB-connected Android smartphone in place of a particle blaster — was first shown off at aGoogle Maps event back in June. At that point, the device was still a prototype and a bit lighter than its current 40-pound heft. But after about a year and a half of prototypes and improvements, as well as test hikes around the Googleplex headquarters in Mountain View and on weekend trails in the Bay Area, Trekker is finally polished enough to collect 360-degree imagery for use in Google Maps Street View.”

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