Google invents armchair hiking

When I first saw this video of a bearded man who appears to be hiking a footpath with some sort of jetpack on his back, if it wasn’t June then I would have thought it was an elaborate April Fool’s joke. But no, apparently Google really are bringing Street View to the hiking trails of North America, as they announced in their blog last week. Soon we may be seeing this man wandering the UK’s national trails and other public footpaths.

Quite who Street View Trekker is aimed at is unclear, but it occurred to me that Google may have invented the sport of armchair hiking, to enable inactive types to enjoy the world’s footpaths. Is it possible that genuine hikers might use Street View Trekker to select their walk, getting a little taster of it online before walking it for real? I can’t see it being used widely for navigation. While Google’s free Google Maps service is excellent for street plans in built-up areas, it contains next to no detail of rural areas other than roads, and I’ve never found it much use when I’m out walking.

As a keen walker I would much rather Google concentrated their efforts on improving maps of rural areas rather than sending a man round the countryside wearing a comedy backpack.

by Mark Horrell

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