Google Is Looking For Brave (And Strong) Backpackers To Help It Map The World's Hard-To-Reach Places

Google TrekkerGoogle Trekker in the canals of Venice.

Google is running a new pilot program for Trekker, a wearable backpack camera system designed to extend the reach of Google Maps to places where Street View cars, bicycles and snowmobiles can’t go. 

Google has built Trekker to fit in narrow spaces, and last October it sent two Trekker teams to map the Grand Canyon, according to NPR. 

‘The Trekker is operated by an Android device and consists of 15 lenses angled in a different direction so the images can be stitched together into 360-degree panoramic views,” Google explains on its web site

However, Trekker isn’t light: It weighs about 40 lbs due to all the batteries and sophisticated tech that’s built in. 

Google says it’s looking for people affiliated with tourism boards, non-profits, government agencies, universities and research groups to borrow and wear Trekker on upcoming trips. 

Google says it’ll also consider individuals, but judging from the questions it’s asking in the application, people are going to have to meet a high bar to get chosen. Here’s one example: 

Provide some detail about your proposed project, the location you want to share with the world via Street View, and why you think it’d be useful. Tell us what makes this place amazing, describe the type of imagery and any highlights you expect to capture, and let us know if your trip is already planned (if so, when?).

Google will probably get tons of people applying to wear Trekker on their next trip. But there are a couple of potential problems they could run into. 

For example, Street View cars haven’t been warmly received in certain parts of the world, particularly in Europe. Google is making no effort to mask what Trekker is doing, and says “proudly features the Google Maps logo.”

Second, some US businesses have already banned Google Glass, the wearable computing system. How are people (in the US and elsewhere) going to react when they see Trekker, which is much more noticeable? 

Here’s Google’s promo video for Trekker: 

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