Google has been systematically capturing images of some of the world's most beautiful and historic sites on its Street View for years, from the tallest mountains to the sea floor. On Monday, the company announced that it's adding more than 30 historic sites, from Jordan to this catalog including the ancient city of Petra — the formerly "lost" 3rd-century city that's been designated a UNESCO world heritage site and one of the New 7 Wonders of the world. (Though many may know it from its star turn in "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.")
For its most recent efforts, Google was able to tap some high-profile help: namely, Queen Rania of Jordan, who penned the company's official blog post.
Google approached the queen because of her past advocacy for tourism in Jordan, as well as for the importance of technology; Rania was the first recipient of Google's YouTube visionary award and is active on social media.
Deanna Yick, program manager for Street View, said that Google contacted the queen, who was eager to showcase how countries like hers are using the Web, and for the opportunity to record these historical sites as they are now. "She also felt it was important to preserve it for her own people, as well as sharing it with the globe," Yick said.
So Google sent a team equipped with its "trekker" backpack cameras to Jordan for a few weeks to record the 360-degree images of heritage sites. The images were then stitched together and cleaned up — to remove tourists or the occasional member of Google's own team — before going online.
In an e-mailed statement to The Post, Rania said that she saw the project as an opportunity to provide a counter to the overwhelmingly negative news coming from the region. "Unfortunately, we are in the middle of a tough and turbulent neighborhood," she said. "News from the region these days is rarely encouraging; tourism has been one of terrorism’s many victims. But there is so much more to the Middle East than headlines of horror. Our region is rich with history, heritage and culture, and the world must not lose sight of that."
Admitting that she is biased about Jordan, Rania said that she wants people to know that "Jordan is peaceful" and that seeing these images — the waters of the Dead Sea, the stunning structures of Petra and others — may help convince people to plan a trip there.
"Those kinds of experiences are priceless, I have always felt that visiting a different country doesn’t just open one's eyes to new places, but opens one's mind to new people," she said.
Google will make the images available on desktop and mobile, Yick said. The images will also work with Google's immersive Cardboard viewer. The company has touted Cardboard as a way to take students on virtual field trips and has launched a pilot program to bring imagery from Mars, Machu Picchu and the bottom of the ocean into the classroom.
Yick said that Cardboard will continue to be an important part of Street View's efforts. "Being able to see it in that way really brings it to life — and not just for archaeologists," she said. "Being able to see it like that is so much more impactful than a photo in the textbook."