Google lets you zip through the Amazon jungle
Google wants to show you what it's like to zip through trees in the Amazon jungle.
The images were released in 2015. They add to the diverse collection of photos supplementing Google's widely used digital maps. The maps' "Street View" option mostly provides panoramic views of cities and neighborhoods photographed by car-mounted cameras. But Google also has found creative ways to depict exotic locations where there are no roads.
In its latest foray into the wilderness, Google teamed up with environmental protection group Amazonas Sustainable Foundation, or FAS. They wanted to explore a remote part of an Amazon rainforest in Brazil. Google Inc. lent FAS its Trekker device. It is a camera mounted on an apparatus originally designed to be carried like a backpack by hikers walking on trails.
FAS, though, sent the Trekker down a zip line. Google is renowned for going out on a technological limb. But even this project made the company nervous at first, said Karin Tuxen-Bettman. She oversees Google's Street View partnerships.
The setup required FAS workers to tread through the rainforest. They needed to find a place where they could string the zip line. That's so the Trekker wouldn't bump into tree trunks and branches as it zoomed through the thick canopy. With the help of some monkeys who joined their scouting expedition, FAS workers found just enough room to erect a zip line for the Trekker's roughly 65-yard trip.
"If a partner comes to us with a crazy idea, we will probably try it," Tuxen-Bettman said.
Google developed the Trekker camera in 2012. Since then, the device has been dispatched on other unusual journeys. The Trekker went scuba diving in the Galpagos Islands. It took underwater photographs of the preserve. And it traveled on a dog sled in the Canadian Artic to photograph the tundra.
Google's Street View feature has raised privacy concerns through the years. Its photographs have occasionally captured images of unsuspecting bystanders. They might have been engaged in embarrassing activities. Or they might be near places where they didn't want to be seen. Cars carrying Street View cameras also secretly vacuumed up emails and other personal information from 2007 to 2010. They were being transmitted over unsecure Wi-Fi networks. That sparked outrage and legal action around the world.
Privacy issues shouldn't be an issue in any of the photography taken by the zip-lining Trekker. Birds and insects are the only visible forms of life in the pictures it took.