This week, Google unveiled its updates to Maps, preempting the Apple announced we all know is coming and giving us a look at some of its new features. While the new 3D capabilities and offline support announcements (and editorial echoes of “will this fend off Apple?”) were focus points, Google also showed up a new Street View mechanism.
The Street View Trekker is a backpack Google has outfitted traveler Googlers with to start mapping terrain off the beaten path. Bike lanes, walking paths, public transit, and of course roads have all long been included in the Google Maps experience, but the idea is to introduce trails, mountain hikes, or little known short-cuts to the application. These are places the Google cars (self-driving or no) can’t get to, and for the most part bikes might not cut it either. Thus, the Street View cam bearing backpack is capturing the footage.
But the task doesn’t have to be a Google-dedicated one, thanks to German company Streetview Technology. The company is selling a DIY Street Trekker kit that will allow you contribute to the project. The kit includes the Street View camera, an image processing server (which stitches your photos together and adds location metadata), the Google custom Street View player so you can enable the shots to work interactively online, and the backpack (which you buy separately). The site includes setup instructions and you’re welcome to use its support team as a resource.
If you want to go with a more classic approach to Google Street View mapping, you can opt for the car mount.
Streetview Technology’s page is down at the moment, but if you’re curious about pricing, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. No price tags are available on the site, and it’s easy to imagine it’s going to cost you.
Right now the DIY Street View cam kit is for private use only, but it would make sense for Google to try and get in on all the data being created. It’s crowd-sourcing for Maps, which seems like something Google would be all about. All the hidden shortcuts and hikes in someone’s personal catalog would be publicly available, and Maps would be that much richer.