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Google's Newest Street View Project Isn't About Streets At All

August 23, 2011 at 12:55 PM | by | Comments (0)

Often the news stories about Google Maps Street View—the Mountain View technology that allows you to virtually walk up and down roads, alleyways, and even zoos—have controversial political upshots. There are perennial privacy issues, including ones that have brought Google into conflicts with European governments. In an age of terrorism there are also genuine security risks, and it took until this week for Israel to greenlight Street View despite the Israelis' numerous safety concerns (although we did kind of tell you they'd end up deciding that way). In any case, mapping the world has turned out to be a more problematic goal than Google might have imagined.

The newest Street View project shouldn't turn out that way. Instead, Google seems to have found a project that just about anyone can get behind.

Google has partnered up with the Foundation for Sustainable Amazon to provide 360 views of the Amazon and Rio Negro Rivers, the goal being to document the lack of conservation and the loss of wildlife in the Amazon River Basin. The mapping should end up covering around 30 miles of the basin, including the roads that lead up to the river and the river itself. Forest areas that are getting destroyed every day—and that the outside world quite literally doesn't know exist—will now be viewable online.

The geeky part of the project involves special river boats and "trikes," custom-designed adaptations on the cars that Google usually uses to map GPS-tagged images onto Google Maps. So after riding the trikes up and down the dirt roads of the basin, clicking thousands of pictures along the way, they'll mount the "vehicles" on boats and float with them down the river. The company is even training the local population so that the valuable work can continue even after Google's engineers have left.

A nice, conservation-themed change from the noise we usually hear about Google's Street View efforts.

[Photo: Google via CY.TALK]

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