Map­ping Greece’s trails with Google tech­nol­ogy

First in­ter­ac­tive online doc­u­men­tary us­ing in­no­va­tive meth­ods, equip­ment is aimed at rais­ing aware­ness about en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues

Kathimerini English - - Focus - BY EVA TOMARA

An in­ter­ac­tive, in­no­va­tive doc­u­men­tary where Greece’s coun­try­side, hik­ing trails and cul­ture meet Google tech­nol­ogy is on the way, ac­cord­ing to Ste­lios Mavrodon­tis, pro­duc­tion man­ager and head of the four-mem­ber team E4, who spoke to Kathimerini re­cently.

Through E4’s col­lab­o­ra­tion with Google’s Trekker pro­gram, the doc­u­men­tary’s end re­sult is set to be pretty im­pres­sive.

Two years ago, Google launched its Trekker loan pro­gram, which en­ables ex­plor­ers to bor­row a spe­cial back­pack mounted kit which in­cludes the same cam­era de­vice found on Google Street View ve­hi­cles. This of­fers tourism boards, non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tions, re­search or­ga­ni­za­tions, univer­si­ties and oth­ers the op­por­tu­nity to col­lect im­agery from hard-to-reach places while as­sist­ing Google in its ef­forts to pro­vide panoramic views from ground level of as many global lo­ca­tions as pos­si­ble.

Greece was the 56th coun­try to join the Google Street View pro­ject, in June 2014. In March this year, Street View’s plat­form was up­dated with a new col­lec­tion of im­ages, Sven Tresp, Google Street View’s spe­cial col­lec­tions pro­gram man­ager, told Kathimerini. The goal, ac­cord­ing to Tresp, is for Google to give its users the chance to see places of his­tor­i­cal and cul­tural sig­nif- icance all over the world as if they were there them­selves. For the time be­ing, three Greek des­ti­na­tions have been mapped out via Trekker, and now the Me­te­ora monastery com­plex, the Ba­los La­goon on Crete and the Sa­maria Gorge, also on Crete, are avail­able for users to visit online.

Mavrodon­tis’s team is col­lab­o­rat­ing with Google Trekker as part of an en­vi­ron­men­tal cam­paign ini­ti­ated by E4. The pro­ject is cen­tered around hik­ing in Greece, and is sup­ported by the World Wide Fund for Na­ture (WWF), the Greek Na­tional Tourism Or­ga­ni­za­tion, UNESCO, the Hel­lenic Fed­er­a­tion of Moun­taineer­ing & Climb­ing, and the Euro­pean Ram­blers As­so­ci­a­tions. E4 is also the name of a Euro­pean longdis­tance trail that starts in Spain and fin­ishes in Cyprus, pass­ing through France, Switzer­land, Ger­many, Aus­tria, Hungary, Ro­ma­nia, Bulgaria and Greece. Ac­cord­ing to Mavrodon­tis, the path­way’s most beau­ti­ful, as well as his­tor­i­cally and cul­tur­ally sig­nif­i­cant, sec­tion is lo­cated in Greece, but very few peo­ple know about it be­cause it is so poorly pro­moted.

One of the team’s goals in pro­duc­ing Greece’s first in­ter­ac­tive online doc­u­men­tary by im­ple­ment­ing in­no­va­tive tech­nol­ogy is to raise public aware­ness about en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues. Hence, E4, us­ing Google Trekker, de­cided to map out the 1,800-kilo­me­ter foot­path, high­light­ing its most im­por­tant sec­tions, in­clud­ing Mt Olym­pus.

“We de­cided that a col­lab­o­ra­tion with Google would be strate­gi­cally sound, as it will al­low us to bring the Trekker equip­ment to Greece, en­abling us to map out the foot­path’s largest sec­tions. Con­se­quently, this gives us the op­por­tu­nity to show off Greece’s wealth of hik­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties,” said Mavrodon­tis.

Us­ing Google Trekker, the team will be able to of­fer an in­spi­ra­tional, three­d­i­men­sional tour of Greece’s hid­den nat­u­ral trea­sures and, as a re­sult, view­ers of the doc­u­men­tary will be able to vir­tu­ally in­ter­act with the en­vi­ron­ment.

“Dig­i­tally, our view­ers will be able to see a unique mor­pho­log­i­cal spec­ta­cle of a snowy moun­tain and the sea from an al­ti­tude of 2,700 me­ters,” said Mavrodon­tis, re­fer­ring to his team’s ex­pe­ri­ence of map­ping out Mt Olym­pus.

In the mean­time, Mavrodon­tis noted that another goal be­hind the dig­i­tal­iza­tion of Greece’s nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment is to get in on the up-and-com­ing trend of ad­ven­ture tourism. Ac­cord­ing to Mavrodon­tis, ad­ven­ture tourism is the most rapidly de­vel­op­ing form of tourism, ex­pected to sur­pass con­ven­tional tourism in the com­ing years.

Mavrodon­tis re­jected the claim that the map­ping out of Greece’s en­vi­ron­ment will lead to a re­duc­tion in tourist ar­rivals, say­ing that these new im­ages will, in con­trast, en­cour­age po­ten­tial visi­tors.

its Trekker loan pro­gram two years ago, en­abling ex­plor­ers to bor­row a spe­cial back­pack mounted kit which in­cludes the same cam­era de­vice found on Google Street View ve­hi­cles.

Google launched

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