For digital nomads and even some Luddites, online maps are a ubiquitous tool.
Now Google is pushing deeper into the realm of virtual travel. Taking its “Street View” technology off-road, Google Maps has been adding photo tours of popular attractions, from the Colosseum in Rome to Joshua Tree National Park in California, and Google Art Project goes inside 180 museums such as Musée d’Orsay in Paris, giving Internet users anywhere the ability to hop galleries and behold the brushstrokes of Vincent van Gogh.
Most recently? Hikers strapped with 360-degree cameras on backpacks plotted out the Grand Canyon’s South Kaibab and Bright Angel trails, and cameras on underwater scooters plumbed the depths of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.
Even North Korean streets can now be zoomed in on. But all that’s just the start. Manik Gupta, senior project manager for Google Maps, says eventually virtual travelers may be able to preview, for instance, any restaurant interior to “request that table in the corner.”
If Google’s sights seem set for planetary domination, consider its army: you. Someday, your smartphone shots may help crowdsource a global panorama.
Seems it’s not time to retire to the armchair just yet.
This piece, written by Brian Lam, appeared in the May 2013 issue of Traveler magazine.