Google Amazon River Basin View

By March 23, 2012

Last summer, a team of Google employees traveled to the Amazon river basin with boats, tricycles and panoramic cameras to photograph the environment and local villages. This week, that wealth of material was incorporated into Google Street View, the 360 degree perspective available beyond the most zoomed-in level of the company’s map service, Google Maps.

“This project originated about two years ago with this amazing idea to bring Street View technology to the Amazon, as a way to bring people who are online all over the world to the Amazon, to see the beauty of the forest and the beauty of the river for themselves,” said Karin Tuxen-Bettman, a Google geodata strategist, in a video promoting the project.

The company used specialized tricycles that serve a function somewhat like that of the fleet of Google Street View automobiles, which capture panoramic shots of roadways for the service, but on remote dirt trails and other inaccessible areas – capturing images of daily life, rural development, and natural habitats including 50 kilometers of the Rio Negro. In some cases, the team hired local community members to pilot the trikes, which have also been deployed in Genoa, Italy and Stonehenge.

In some cases, such as the water-based capture, the company had to innovate.

“We’ll pedal the Street View trike along the narrow dirt paths of the Amazon villages and maneuver it up close to where civilization meets the rainforest,” reads an update from last August. “We’ll also mount it onto a boat to take photographs as the boat floats down the river. The tripod – which is the same system we use to capture imagery of business interiors – will also be used to give you a sense of what it’s like to live and work in places such as an Amazonian community center and school.

The company partnered with the Amazonas Sustainable Foundation, a non-profit conservation organization that has fought deforestation in the Amazon river valley. The company will leave behind equipment so that local persons can continue to gather data.

Google had previously captured photographic material of Antarctica into Street View, in a bid to incorporate panoramic images on all seven continents.