Grand Canyon View: Now Google treats the world to a tour of the natural wonder (but it doesn't look like the postcards)
Google has finally treated the internet users to a tour of the Grand Canyon... but it doesn't look like the barren and dusty land pictured in postcards.
- First official publication of images taken by Google's Trekker backpacks
- Features 9,500 panoramas taken around the canyon and Meteor Crater
- But canyon looks surprisingly lush instead of showing barren rock
Instead the eagerly awaited expansion of Street View showcases one of the seven wonders of the world as a lush and green expanse with extensive woods.
The internet search company in October sent staff lugging backpack-mounted Street View cameras to capture the views around the trails of the geological scar that carves a swathe across Arizona.
Those images have now been processed, stitched together and turned into panoramic, scrollable images available to view on Google Maps.
Scroll down to take Google's virtual Grand Canyon Tour
The view towards Phantom Ranch: The Pueblo people considered the Grand Canyon ('Ongtupqa' in the Hopi language) a holy site and made pilgrimages to it.
Outstanding natural beauty: Grand Canyon
Impact site: Google has also released a range of panoramas of the trails around nearby Meteor Crater
The collection includes more than 9,500 panoramas taken from the most popular hiking trails along the Grand Canyon's south rim and nearby Meteor Crater.
With a click of the mouse, Internet users are transported virtually for a 360-degree view of locales they may have read about only in tourist books and seen in flat, 2D images.
Google Maps product manager Ryan Falor said: 'Whether you’re planning an upcoming hike, or want to learn more about the Earth’s geological history, Google Maps can help.
'Today, we’re releasing panoramic imagery of one of the world’s most spectacular national monuments: the Grand Canyon.
'These beautiful, interactive images cover more than 75 miles of trails and surrounding roads, making our map of this area even more comprehensive, accurate and easy to use than ever before
'Take a walk down the narrow trails and exposed paths of the Grand Canyon: hike down the famous Bright Angel Trail, gaze out at the mighty Colorado River, and explore scenic overlooks in full 360-degrees.
'You’ll be happy you’re virtually hiking once you get to the steep inclines of the South Kaibab Trail.
The South Kaibab Trail: For thousands of years, the Grand Canyon area has been continuously inhabited by Native Americans who built settlements within the canyon and its many caves.
'And rather than drive a couple hours to see the nearby Meteor Crater, a click of your mouse or tap of your finger will transport you to the rim of this otherworldly site.'
A steep-sided natural scar on the Arizona landscape carved by the Colorado River, the Grand Canyon is 277 miles long, up to 18 miles wide and, in parts, up to a mile deep.
It exposes nearly two billion years of the Earth's geological history as the river and its tributaries cut their channels through layer after layer of rock.
For thousands of years, the area has been continuously inhabited by Native Americans who built settlements within the canyon and its many caves.
The Pueblo people considered the Grand Canyon ('Ongtupqa' in the Hopi language) a holy site and made pilgrimages to it.
The Grand Canyon virtual tour is the latest evolution in mapping technology for the company, which has used a rosette of cameras to photograph thousands of cities and towns in dozens of countries for its Street View feature.
Google's cameras already have taken users to narrow cobblestone alleys in Spain using a tricycle, inside the Smithsonian with a push cart and to British Columbia's snow-covered slopes by snowmobile.
The project began in 2007, with five U.S. cities mapped out with 5MP cameras mounted on Google's now-famous Street View cars.
Since then its cars, now equipped with 75MP cameras, have driven more than 5million unique miles of road across every continent.
Google Street View now covers more than 3,000 cities across 45 countries - and even a slice of Antarctica complete with the southern continent's resident penguins.
Another side revealed: Google's latest offering reveals that it doesn't look like the barren land pictured in postcards
Contradiction: Previous images of one of the seven wonders of the world show it as a barren and dry habitat
But these images of the Grand Canyon are the first to be taken by the company's Trekker platform, which allows workers on foot to collect 360 degree imagery with a back-pack mounted camera system.
'Our team strapped on the Android-operated 40lb backpacks carrying the 15-lens camera system and wound along the rocky terrain on foot, enduring temperature swings and a few muscle cramps along the way,' Mr Falor said.
Google's Trekker cameras capture images every 2.5 seconds with 15 cameras that are 5MP each. A removable hard drive on the trekker stores the data as it is gathered.
GPS data around the Grand Canyon is limited, so Google was forced to compensate with sensors to record temperature, vibrations and the orientation of the device as it changes. These details were essential to developers given the job of stitching them back together into seamless, scrollable panoramas.
Hikers that were on the Grand Canyon trails when the data was gathered have had their faces blurred - an attempt by Google to ensure privacy.
The company came in for fierce criticism in Europe and Australia after it emerged that it had scooped up and stored information transmitted over unsecured wireless networks while capturing images for Street View.
The Grand Canyon is just the start of Google's plans for the Trekker backpacks. The company has said it wants to deploy them at national forests, to the narrow streets of Venice, Mount Everest and to ancient ruins and castles.
Now try Google's virtual tour of the Grand Canyon for yourself
Grand Canyon - Google Maps