- Drone almost blocks California firefighting planes
- Tornado rips off roofs, downs trees near Boston
- GOP: Environmental rules keeping agents from accessing border
- John Kerry: Millions displaced by religious fighting in 2013
- Federal appeals court rules against Virginia’s gay marriage ban
- White House says Russia ‘losing’ war in Ukraine
- Hamas turns to North Korea for weapons deal, Iran for money
- Syrian casualties surge as jihadis consolidate
- U.N. rights chief: Flight MH17 downing possible war crime
- Attack on park in Gaza war kills 10, mostly children
A Death Valley drive with the click of a mouse
Question of the Day
FRESNO, CALIF. (AP) - Imagine being the only driver on a two-lane asphalt highway as the stark desolation of Death Valley National park passes on each side and the crystal blue sky stretches up from the horizon.
Or picture a tight left turn on Yosemite’s Glacier Point Road where in the east iconic Half Dome suddenly appears against a backdrop of the snow-capped High Sierra.
The Google Street View service that has brought us Earth as we might not be able to afford to see it _ as well criticism that some scenes along its 5 million miles of the globe’s roadways invade privacy _ this month has turned its 360-degree cameras on road trips through five national parks in California.
“Everyone likes to take a road trip through a national park,” said Evan Rapoport, the Street View project manager, who was inspired by a cross-country camping trip he took after graduation. “Bringing unique places to people that they might not go in the real world is unique to Street View.”
The company sought permission from the Department of the Interior before filming in May as drivers hit the road in vehicles rigged with 15-lens cameras that point in all directions, Rapoport said. The camera fires off still images at intervals depending upon the speed of the vehicle, then custom software blurs faces and stitches all of them together into an ever-advancing 360-degree panorama.
Click right and see orange-hued boulders formed from cooling magma. Click up and squint into that fireball of a sun hovering over the southeast California desert in Joshua Tree National Park, which is featured with the others along with the forest-dense Sequoia & Kings Canyon and Redwood National Park at Crescent City near the Oregon border.
Stop in the middle of the virtual road and do a 360 without worrying about being rear-ended by a ubiquitous RV.
The project was part of a Street View “refresh” of California that involved a trip down Highway 1 along the Big Sur coast, including the famous Bixby Creek Bridge that spans the mouth of a coast-hugging canyon.
Is it part of a master plan to capture people in a virtual world?
“I sure hope not,” Rapoport said. “Part of our goal is to inspire people to see these places in person.”
As national park attendance continues to decline, officials welcome this unique virtual visit as a way to keep fans connected and inspire others to experience the sights in person.
“I often wish we could get the word out on some of the park system’s lesser known wonders,” said Candace Tinkler, chief interpreter at Redwoods, with its massive trees that can live 2,000 years and soar up to 350 feet. “This is a wonderful opportunity for people around the world to connect to these places.”
The parks join other Street View features like a snowy glide down one of the ski runs at Squaw Valley of 1960 Olympics fame, or a walk around the gardens of the Louvre museum in Paris. Rapoport would not say whether other U.S. national parks are being considered for this special look.
Joe Zarki at Joshua Tree says the virtual drive could be used to show tourists at the 1,200-square-mile park’s peripherally located visitors’ centers that the flat expanse of desert changes to a landscape of boulders and the namesake towering yuccas within an hour’s drive.
With summer temperatures hovering near 120 degrees and heat stroke warnings common, this time of year only the hearty visit Death Valley, which at 282 feet below sea level boasts the lowest locale in the U.S.
TWT Video Picks
By Scott Pinsker
- Illegal immigrants demand representation in White House meetings
- Hillary Clinton: Forget Obama, George W. Bush made her 'proud to be an American'
- D.C. police chief orders officers not to arrest legal gun owners carrying weapons in public
- Tennessee Gov. Haslam slams White House for secret dump of illegals in his state
- Babson College, BYU win top spots in Money magazine's college rankings
- CURL: Obama, staffers not even pretending any more
- Family of Marine killed in Afghanistan pushes back against cover-up
- D.C. seeks stay in order striking down ban on handguns in public
- DeSean Jackson working on offensive cohesiveness with Redskins teammates
- Ohio sheriff sends bill to Mexico for cost of jailing illegals
Obama's biggest White House 'fails'
Celebrities turned politicians
Athletes turned actors
20 gadgets that changed the world
Fighting in Iraq