Google offers unusual view of Michigan


What do the Taj Mahal, the Grand Canyon, the Great Pyramids and Mackinac Island have in common?

They are all notable locations featured on Google Maps.

Michigan’s tourism board has teamed with Google to become the first Midwestern state to give computer users a virtual travel experience.

Google’s small hatchback street view cars drive around all seven continents to collect panoramic views.

But some of the most beautiful scenes are far off the beaten path, especially in Michigan.

“We are fully aware that just because the road ends, it doesn’t mean that there’s not more interesting sites to see,” said Deanna Yick, program manager for Google street view.

Last fall Google loaned equipment to volunteers at Travel Michigan for four weeks to collect more than 44,000 images. It came in the form of something called the Trekker, a backpack containing the same technology as Google’s street view camera system, said Yick.

It weighs about 40 pounds and has 15 lenses pointed in different directions. Once it’s turned on, it records images every 2.5 seconds and saves them on a disc. When the disc is returned to Google, the images are stitched together and turned into 360 panoramic views.

Volunteers using the Trekker took 360-degree views of 45 Michigan sites like the top of the Mackinac Bridge, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and Sleeping Bear Dunes.

“These are places where a car can certainly not go, so it makes sense to capture this imagery via the Trekker equipment and still be able to share it with the world,” said Yick.

Google Trekker street view camera. Image: Eli Duke via Creative Commons

Google Trekker street view camera. Image: Eli Duke via Creative Commons

Michigan’s application beat thousands of others to be accepted into the Trekker program. “We were thrilled they chose us,” said Chad Weibesick director of social media and interactive marketing at the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.

While Yick said the Trekker program is part of Google’s pursuit of creating a comprehensive world map, Michigan’s tourism board hopes that the images shared online will increase travel to the state.

“This partnership with Google is another great way to promote all the beauty Michigan has and draw more visitors,” said Nate Pilon, manager of communications for the MEDC.

Go here to see the full collection of photos and take the road less traveled by — it will make all the difference.

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