Ina Fried

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This High-Tech Backpack Is Mapping the Remotest Corners for Google (Video)

Most people know about the fleet of Google cars that go around filming streets.

Google map submarine

But what about the submarines and the tricycles and the backpacks? At Google I/O this week, the company showed off the collection of off-road gear it uses to map the places the cars can’t go.

One of the latest additions to Google’s arsenal is a 42-pound backpack equipped with 15 cameras that takes a picture every 2.5 seconds as a hiker lugs it up a mountain, along a trail or through narrow streets unreachable by other means.

So far, Google has used it to map the Grand Canyon and remote areas from Brazil to the Arctic to Venice, Italy.

At I/O, Google hooked the footage taken with the backpack to three monitors connected to a treadmill. As attendees walked along the treadmill a new image would pop up for every few meters covered.

In a video interview, Steve Silverman, program manager for Google Maps, talked about the effort.

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik