Allow me to share two recent observations;
My Grandfather is no longer being able to leave his house easily due to worsening dementia. Personally, I could not imagine being confined to an apartment, no matter how large or luxurious. I’m not sure he would have either only a few years ago. Now he longs to explore the countryside.
My niece and nephew watching David Attenborough documentaries in awe of the wildlife, not quite old enough to realise what they’re seeing exists, but might not by the time they’ve grown up. As the the presenter notes with sorrow, “an area the size of a football pitch is being destroyed in the Amazon every minute^”.
I’ve always been fascinated by Google Street View imagery. Whether seeking out directions for an upcoming meeting or exploring new neighbourhoods thousands of kilometres away.
Thus, I was left me questioning; does a Street View for the natural world exist?
Hours of virtually exploring mountains and jungles later, I wanted to get out and create my own imagery of the beautiful British countryside to share with my family, and fellow virtual trekkers across the globe.
Official Street View Camera Backpacks
The good news; Google provides Street View Camera Loans to a wide range of people from pro photographers, travellers, and organisations (such as tourism boards, non-profits, government agencies, universities or research groups).
The bad news; the waiting list is long. And I didn’t want to wait.
Back to the drawing board.
Street View Ready Cameras
A little more research uncovered Street View Ready cameras. These are panoramic cameras certified by Google for publishing imagery on Google Street View.
It appeared I was not alone. Thousands of other photographers around the world are also interested in doing the same thing as the market for Street View Ready cameras demonstrated.
Even better, all options would be much more mobile than the Google Camera Backpacks, though would sacrifice slightly on image quality and the benefits of Google’s automation software for publishing photos.
DIY Street View Camera Backpack
After purchasing a Street View Ready camera, I chose a GoPro Fusion, all that was required was a backpack and monopod that could be used to mount the camera above my head to give it a clear line of site the world around me.
Now I could start shooting.
Armed with my DIY camera rig, inspired by Google’s own Street View backpack camera, I started taking photos on my local canal.
In conversation with others our exploring the canal – it’s amazing how interested people are in a person with a camera mounted above their head – it became clear others were keen to see the imagery online and to share it with friends and family in other parts of the country.
My grandfather loves exploring what I’ve captured using a virtual reality headset (I use the Google Daydream View headset together with my Pixel 2 phone).
As do my niece and nephew, who are now excited to see the images brought to life in person.
And there appears to be no shortage for interest in this type of imagery.
Introducing Trek View
I’ve spoken to:
- Care providers who believe panoramic imagery can improve health outcomes for housebound patients,
- Schools who want to incorporate panoramic imagery for interactive lessons on the natural world,
- Conservationists who are exploring the use of panoramic imagery to keep a record of changes to the environment,
- Tourism boards who know panoramic tours can be a powerful tool in attracting new visitors, and
- Hopefully many more people in the future…
I believe interactive panoramic imagery of our world can inspire others to explore and protect it, benefiting both the viewer, creator, and the planet as a whole.
I want to make it easy for anyone, anywhere, to create and share virtual panoramic tours with this belief in mind.
I have a few ideas up my sleeve…