Google sings songs of Uluru with new Street View vistas
With ever-growing troves of valuable data on its shelves, Google has expanded its Street View range further to Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park in Northern Territory, Australia.
However, rather than eyeing ad revenue, Google seems intent on documenting the cultural heritage of the area in this project, and after two years of collaborative development the Story Sphere of Uluru is now live online.
Since 2007, Street View has captured some of the world's most famous sites across 83 countries, including the Grand Canyon in the US and the Taj Mahal in India.
The service offers 360 degree panoramas from various vantage points around each site, in what are like dynamic brochures for curious parties and potential visitors, who are probably many kilometres away.
The new Uluru coverage includes nine sites, under labels including Uluru View, Kata Tjuta View, Tjukurpa and Watering Hole in line with existing Street View scenarios.
However, when tackling Uluru, the Google team thought the unique Australian site needed the presence and voices of its people to fully capture the Tjukurpa, or way of life of the local Anangu people.
Working closely with Parks Australia, the local community and Tourism NT, the company engaged its existing Story Sphere platform to bring the Street View to life for the special site.
After clicking through to the Story Spheres from Street View, the scenes become animated with voice-overs and music, adding rich currents of songlines and stories.
Click on the white notes that hover over certain areas of the scene to be taken on a guided tour by Anangu traditional owner Sammy Wilson about its history or cultural relevance, with songs and music by traditional owner and Anangu Elder, Reggie Uluru.
It respectfully avoids climbing the rock, in line with wishes of traditional owners, and rather traces paths around its base away from sacred sites deemed inappropriate for the project.
"If people see this, they will hopefully have more of an understanding about Uluru. They will also want to come and visit," Wilson says.
"Everybody in the world has their own culture, their own ways of expressing and celebrating their belief systems and culture. The natural world holds our belief system".
"Guests can arrive informed of more than just the picture postcard views and with an appreciation and a desire to learn more when on the ground," says Jason Pellegrino, managing direction of Google Australia and New Zealand.
"For locals, it's an opportunity to share their heritage amongst themselves in a new way. Younger generations have taken up new technology. Traditions are now transferred in multiple ways, in addition to the oral telling of stories.
"This platform is not monetised whatsoever. There's no money being made".
The writer travelled to Uluru as a guest of Google.
- Sydney Morning Herald