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Google is constantly seeking new information which it likes to share with the online world. One of the best examples of this is mapping. Satellite images are available for all to see on Google Earth. Google Maps not only features maps and aerial views, but for many parts of the world we can see what it looks like at street level with Google Street View. An immeasurable number of miles of roads in western Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and the USA have been photographed at road level. This is done using cars with 360 degree cameras mounted on the roof. The Google cars simply drive around filming our roads and streets.

Google Trike

In their quest for information Google are not satisfied with knowing what our highways look like. Recently they have made some off road excursions on Google Trike. With enough pedal power, the trike can get to many places inaccessible by car. Using Street View it is now possible to see around the grounds of a number of National Trust properties in the UK.

Google Trike is used to make photographs for Street View

Google Trike can go where the Google Car cannot. Source: Flickr by artberri.

Google Sherpa-Cam

There are only so many places a three wheeled pedal cycle can get to. The next development for Google Street View will involve getting off the trike and moving onto mountain trails, which will require leg power alone. For this Google are developing the Sherpa-cam. Prototypes are currently being trialled in the Lake District and in the Nepalese Himalayas.

It is not clear whether Google will take images of the whole of the Lake District or just the routes up the most popular mountains, such as Scafell Pike, Helvellyn, The Old Man of Conniston and Blencartha. One of the main problems that the Google Sherpa-Cam team face is the weather.

We have to wait for days when there is a high cloud base. There is no point hiking up a mountain with a heavy camera when all that can be seen is grey cloud!

Street View up mountains with Google Sherpa-Cam

Google Sherpa-Cam prototype on the trail to Everest Base Camp. Source: Flickr by Ilkerender and artberri.

In the Himalayas Sherpa-Cam has been taken up as far as Everest Base camp. Upon leaving Base Camp and ascending the Khumbu Icefall conditions become much more treacherous. Also, the severe drop in temperature affects the electronics causing problems with the camera.

Eventually we hope to take Sherpa-cam right up to the summit of Everest. Most people are not able to climb the summit themselves and so we believe that there will be a huge demand to see the entire trail to summit. Only once we are sure that the technology is fully functioning will we make a bid for the summit. Sherpa-Cam is heavy and once we have entered the death zone above 7000 m the risk to human life is high. We do not want to take any chances and so we will need a very experienced mountaineering team to help with this project.

What do you think of Sherpa-Cam?

Of course, there are many spectacular mountain views in many parts of world, but is it really necessary to have a street view of mountain trails? Google think so, but what do you think? Like the government who want to microchip walkers, are Google going too far? Click on the comments below and let us know!

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