Google Street View has used a a 10-year-old camel named Raffia for the first time to capture images of the desert around Liwa Oasis with a Street View camera mounted on top of her hump to create panoramic views for internet users around the world.
Google has taken its Street View cameras on boats and even underwater, but this is the first time the tech company has used an animal, Joyce Baz, spokeswoman for Google in the Middle East and North Africa, told the U.A.E. daily, The National.
"With every environment and every location, we try to customise the capture and how we do it for that part of the environment," said Ms. Baz, adding, "In the case of Liwa we fashioned it in a way so that it goes on a camel so that it can capture imagery in the best, most authentic and least damaging way." Utilising the desert’s ancient mode of transport, a guide walked the camel from as early as 6 a.m. to photograph the area in the clearest weather conditions possible, said Ms. Baz.
The images, now available online, show scenery from Liwa including dunes, the oasis, other camels and Raffia’s footprints and shadow.
Street View, launched in 2007, now not only collects 360-degree views of streets, but also heritage sites and other landmarks on seven continents.
Google typically uses a camera attached to a car for photographing streets, but to capture Liwa, it used the Trekker, a camera that is more than a metre high and can sit in a backpack, said Ms. Baz.
, The Trekker is often used for places inaccessible by car, such as narrow alleyways, and Street View photographers take the weather and time of day into account in deciding when to capture the images. Photographs are then stitched together to create the panoramic image that users can virtually navigate.
This is the third Street View available in the U.A.E., following the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi and the Burj Khalifa in Dubai.
Ms. Baz said the feature could help boost tourism for Liwa. "Liwa is a highly touristic site and is growing in popularity." Liwa Oasis lies in the south west of Abu Dhabi Emirate, about 100 kilometres south of the Arabian Gulf coast, at the edge of the Empty Quarter.