When Google Street View first launched, getting to see one’s own house from a computer screen seemed pretty amazing. But viewers are now able to embark on new and more exciting adventures from the comfort of their own homes as Google continues to grow the abilities of Street View.
Earlier this year, Google teamed up with a New Zealand skydiving company to let viewers experience skydiving through the country’s beautiful Abel Tasman National Park. Now Google has again forged a new path, this time giving viewers the chance to see one of Australia’s most sacred sites: Uluru.
The Uluru rock is a sacred spot for the Pitjantjatjara Anangu, the Indigenous people of Australia. The Uluru and the area around the sandstone formation is home to watering holes, ancient markings and rock caves know as the Kuniya trail.
Now with Google Street View, the area can be admired from anywhere around the world. Using an interactive map, viewers are able to tour the site and learn about Dreamtime stories (ancient stories from Indigenous culture on how the Earth was formed) and local traditional law.
Jason Pellegrino, Google Australia’s managing director, explained that the project took two years to complete, with Google adhering strictly to the requests of the Anangu people, including omitting areas that are considered too sacred to be photographed.
The Uluru is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has become a popular tourist destination. But over the years, new rules have come into play to limit tourists’ access to the rock in order to protect the area and keep it a sacred space.
“The uniqueness of this site is the cultural heritage that underpins this place and so sharing those stories, those songs, that traditional law, had to be a part of the process,” said Pellegrino. “We worked really closely with the Anangu people to make sure that what we did was sympathetic to their culture.”
With the new Google Street View tour, people can learn about Anangu traditions and enjoy the area without damaging the sacred space. As far as concerns go about Google Street View having a negative effect on Australia’s tourist industry, Pellegrino says there’s no need to worry. “We looked at data from many, many countries and efforts like this do not have a negative impact on tourism. What the efforts focused on is the people who aren’t privileged enough as us to visit this location and can still experience this in all its wonder, not just its physical beauty.”
Following the success of the new Google Street View for Uluru, Google is planning on expanding to other significant sites in Australia, including Kakadu National Park.