If you’re planning a family road trip to the Grand Canyon, feel free to cancel it. Put away the car seat and unplug the GPS, because Google Street View now lets you enjoy Arizona’s finest geological treasure from the comfort of your couch.
Fresh off of unveiling new shots of North Korea’s gulags, Google debuted more than a dozen 3-D galleries that feature breathtaking images of the national park’s key attractions, including some of its main trails, the famous Meteor Crater and the Colorado River, which has been eroding and shaping the natural wonder of the world for millions of years.
The Grand Canyon isn’t exactly a smoothly paved road, so in order to map it Google invented the Trekker, an Android-operated camera that can be worn like a backpack, to capture the canyon’s beauty on foot. Each of the Trekker’s 15 lenses — the same number as on a Google Street View car — takes a photograph every 2.5 seconds to piece together 360-degree panoramic views. A team of 10 Google employees armed with five Trekker devices took three days to photograph 75 miles of the canyon, and we assume no donkeys were hurt in the making of these images.
Since Google Street View launched in 2007 with a five-city trial, the mapping service has employed a number of devices to record the world in 3-D. To digitize internationally renowned museum collections, Google created a push-cart trolley camera to weave between sculptures and paintings. To capture off-road parks, stadiums and university campuses, Google designed a tricyle that lugs around state-of-the-art technology with training wheels. And despite Google’s technological prowess, it isn’t afraid of getting a little DIY when it comes to capturing the world’s finest ski slopes — it built a snowmobile apparatus out of 2x4s and duct tape.
Google Street View seems pretty committed to making nature’s geological treasures (as well as naked people and wild animals) accessible to anyone with an Internet connection. It already allows users to traverse Antarctica without the frigid temperatures, swim with Nemo in the Great Barrier Reef, and even get their James Bond on in the Swiss Alps. So now when your friends tell you to get off the computer and go outside, ignore them. Thanks to Google, you’ll never have to choose between the Internet and mother nature again.