Google Tells Execs to Take a Hike

We’ve heard lots of tales of staff at tech companies being allowed to use “breakout rooms” with all manner of beanbags and foosball tables to promote creative thinking. But most companies would draw the line at spending your working day going off for a hike.

Not Google, where two executives are among those who’ve been walking round the Grand Canyon as part of their job. But as well as a refreshed mind and perhaps some inspiration, they’ve returned with some genuinely useful data: Google Maps Street View for off-track hikers.

The company has previously used several variations on its standard camera-cars, including a modified buggy for walking round the paths and gardens of private estates that are happy to be mapped, a camera-bike for forest trails, and even a snowmobile.

Now it’s using the Trekker, a backpack with an arm that extends upwards to mount a 360-degree camera around two feet above the wearer’s shoulders. The device automatically takes shots every 2.5 seconds while the backpack wearer walks a trail, but he or she can also control it using a smartphone (Android, naturally.)

The images come from 15 separate 5-megapixel cameras. Special sensors record the vibrations and orientations of the cameras, with these details used to make sure the individual images are stitched together accurately.

Throughout this week, staff will be walking round sections of the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, with the results of their trip planned to go live “soon.” An operations manager and a product manager have already made one journey with the backpacks, walking 10 miles along the Bright Angel Trail. That’s not bad going considering the backpacks weigh in at around 40 pounds.

(Picture credit: Google)