(NEW YORK) — Last year Google started getting Street View images of remote areas of the world not with its cars or trike, but with a contraption called the Trekker. The Trekker is a giant backpack with a mounted camera that pairs with an Android phone. It takes photos as you walk through a desert or on a mountain and Google then puts them together to give you those real-life images in its maps.
Google employees have been using the Trekker to get images of the Grand Canyon, but it’s now planning to allow others to put on the 35-pound backpack. The company announced late Thursday a pilot program that will allow third-party organizations to borrow the contraption and contribute images to Google Maps.
“For the first time ever, this program will enable organizations to use our camera equipment to collect 360-degree photos of the places they know best — helping us make Google Maps more comprehensive and useful for all,” Google’s Street View program manager Deanna Yick wrote in a blog post. “This program is part of our ongoing effort to make it possible for anyone to contribute to Google Maps.”
The company is already working with the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau (HVCB) to get beautiful images from Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Mauna Loa Observatory, Onomea Bay and the Pololu Valley. Once those are taken, Google will then stitch the photos together to create 360-degree interactive images and put them in Google Maps so you can visit the islands right from your home.
Google recently updated its Maps applications for the web and for Android phones. The new Maps version for the web is still new and requires you request an invitation to test it out. It provides a more immersive Maps experience with new features, including reviews and traffic data. Google also recently bought the popular traffic app Waze.
Google is now accepting applications from other groups that might be interested in borrowing the Trekker. You can apply here.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Seth Fiegerman, CNN