Street View takes Venice by foot

Unable to bring their camera-toting car to the Italian lagoon city, where gondolas and canals stand in for vehicles and roads, the internet firm sent physically fit technicians to walk Venice's alleys wearing a backpack-mounted camera.

Google has already added the Antarctic, the inside of the White House and the Great Barrier Reef (underwater) to Street View, which was launched in 2007, but a spokesperson said Venice was considered a feather in its cap.

"We have wanted to do it for a long time but didn't have the technology," said Gareth Evans.

Google previously used a tricycle-mounted camera to shoot inside parks and a trolley to get inside museums, but both methods were no good at scaling the steps over the bridges crossing Venice's canals.

In April two sturdy Google employees were each sent carrying a 1.2m tall, 18kg backpack and camera that resembles an insect's eye and sticks above the wearer's head. The cameras' 15-angle lenses take a picture every 2.5 seconds. The pictures can be merged into a 360° view.

The backpack device, known as the Trekker, has been used on Grand Canyon hiking paths in the United States, the Burj Khalifa tower in Dubai and inside the Alhambra palace in southern Spain. The images from Venice should be online by the end of the year, said Evans.

Google is also planning to snap Venice from a boat as the vessel plies the city's canals, a service that has been dubbed "Google gondola".

Evans said the operators experienced few problems from curious onlookers crowding them as they tried to walk straight lines through Venice's piazzas. "People tended to ignore them," he said. "They just thought it was guy with a weird backpack." – © Guardian News & Media 2013

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