It seems like every week, Google drags its Street View cameras up another mountain (or across another monster-infested lake). The key to recording those inaccessible places? The Trekker, a custom-built 360-degree camera mated to a backpack, which turns mere humans into living, breathing Google data-capture machines.
New Yorker reporter Andrew Marantz got the chance to see the operation for himself, as part of a mission to capture the Hudson River for Street View. In collaboration with the Hudson River Foundation and the S.S. Columbia Project, Google sent a team with a Trekker to capture first-person 360 views down the whole river. From his account, it’s not all plain sailing:
Beers were passed around. Baumel, above us, said “Cheers” in a forlorn way, so I climbed a ladder to bring him one. He had been in the same stance, legs wide to prevent sway, for hours. The backpack weighed forty pounds, and it was top-heavy. I asked how he was holding up. “I feel glad to be part of cartographic history,” he said. The words were slogan-ish, but he sounded sincere. “I have a huge map of the world on my bathroom wall. I’m into this stuff.”
The report is a fascinating insight into the world of Google’s special collections. I’ve long marvelled at Google’s efforts to bring the extraordinary into our sitting rooms; now, I appreciate whoever lugged a Trekker up Everest that little bit more.