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Captured: Google takes an Amazon street view

world Updated: Oct 20, 2011 00:43 IST
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This community in the heart of the Amazon is so remote that villagers had until recently never heard of one of the world's best-known companies, Google.

So when they were told that Google would be introducing an off-road version of the company's Street View project into their hamlet, population 100, residents thought that a popular Brazilian variety show host known as Gugu (pronounced goo-goo) was on his way. What came were a half-dozen "Googlers," armed with a contraption holding nine cameras and fastened high above a bulky white tricycle.

Used previously to photograph Stonehenge, the Google Trike was mounted atop a motorboat that sped along the Rio Negro, a tributary of the Amazon, the cameras incessantly snapping pictures.

It was then slowly pedaled along Tumbira's dirt paths, past wood-plank homes and onto the soccer field.

A special tripod-mounted camera was used to shoot inside the small school here and taken along a forest trail that led into a sea of green, where the Googlers were met by a cacophony of singing birds.

The cameras produced countless images that, once stitched together and posted online later this year, will provide a digital mirror of a slice of wilderness and village life that most people will never see in person.

"You're floating down the river and you see a community and you stop and you get off the boat and then hike up the hill to the community and then walk around," said Karin Tuxen-Bettman, a strategist for Google Earth Outreach, who spent a week here overseeing the project.

"It was such a surprise, not what I expected," Socorro Soares de Macedo said sheepishly, describing Google's recent whirlwind, three-week stay in her village.

The project here joined technology and environmental activism, with the goal of broadly circulating panoramic, 3-D photographs to show how people in one small community can protect the world's largest forest and live off it at the same time, says Google.

"One thing we always want people to know is the Amazon is not only about trees and biodiversity," said Raquel Luna, who coordinates FAS's efforts to educate villagers about conservation.

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