Google Waterways

Published – Asia-Pacific Boating
©2016 – All Rights Reserved – Troy Gilbert

Google is taking their highly successful StreetView to the world’s rivers, lakes and coastlines. The giant American aviewofa360dsearch engine based company has since 2007 used their “Trekker” device mounted on cars to record 360 degree images of every roadway and street in North America, most of Europe and Asia which then spurred Chinese search giant Baidu and Tencent to follow. Using the identical technology from imaging roads, Google is now equipping boats with their “Trekker” technologies and recording navigable waterways and coastlines the world over.

Initially started as a pilot program in the Amazon River, Google has quickly added many navigable canals and rivers in Europe and the United States and will eventually have all of these interactive panoramas completely imaged. Using technology derived from their driverless cars, Google recently tested out a robot or drone boat to image the coastline of San Francisco Bay, and these boat drones will certainly be used in the future for longer voyages such as recording the shorelines of the Mississippi River or the actual coastlines of entire nations.

The technology isn’t limited to only billion dollar companies, in Burma, the stunning beaches of the Mergui archipelago were recently imaged by a local travel company and now allows tourists and boaters to get a more immersive feel for an area before visiting. As the technology grows, ambient sounds and even perhaps the flashing of marine beacons will certainly be added to these static images – bringing an even more, nearly hands-on experience in planning boating excursions. The necessary equipment is rapidly becoming less expensive and pervasive, so expect this to be a common interactive method to survey any explore any destination beforehand, but Google is by far the leader and has recently added the canals of Venice to their growing inventory.

Part of a larger project to map and record less accessible terrains, Google first ventured from roads and hitched their gear onto backpacks to image Arizona’s Grand Canyon and Mount Everest and even hiked up the stairwell of Dubai’s massive Burj Khalifa skyscraper standing at nearly 830 meters. Waterways are a natural extension for the company’s designs on bringing the world to anyone with a smartphone or computer and who is specifically looking to plan an expedition, adventure or to simply explore.

For boaters, it’s an added navigational tool available before visiting a new marina or even searching for your next mooring and anchorage. An interactive 360 degree boat-level view of the approach to the entrance of a channel, including markers, gives boaters another level of comfort and safety when planning trips to new destinations. It will also give boaters and the curious access to the waterways of their dream destinations.


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