Google Trekker

  • 2021

  • Product
    Sport and Lifestyle

Commissioned By:


Designed In:

United States of America

Trekker is Google’s all-in-one backpack mapping device for Street View, Google Maps, and Google Earth content. Designed in the United States of America, this device includes a 360-degree camera array that creates perfectly-stitched images of its surroundings to produce photographs and interactive maps of places vehicles cannot access.

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  • Google's original product was large, heavy, and nearly impossible to wear for more than a few minutes. Google had been using it to map and photograph terrains with their car rooftop-mounted system, but it was also limited by road access. Our challenge was to help Google package their incredible technology into a portable unit that worked flawlessly, was extremely durable, waterproof, and comfortable to wear so users could easily document places where there are no roads.

  • Physics, function, and ergonomics drove most of our design thinking. The HD cameras required 360° unobscured vision, meaning they had to be positioned just above the user's head. Two LIDAR glass cylinders (one scans the horizontal topographical plane, and the other scans the vertical plane) were positioned so that the scans were not obscured. The computer in the central compartment processes in real-time and gets very hot, so it required a big exposed heat sink. Finally, two hot-swap batteries were positioned at the bottom to keep the center of gravity as low as possible, which makes Trekker easy to carry.

  • The new Trekker created a subculture of travelers committed to revealing new frontiers and sharing their experiences with the global community in a riveting way. It also became a valuable tool for cartographers documenting some of the greatest places on Earth for everyone to learn about and enjoy. This component configuration in a friendly backpack form factor is the innovation that makes Google's disruptive mapping and documenting technology a reality. The Trekker is a world-changing device that brings massive benefits to global education, science, and research. There has never been anything like this product before. It alone defines its category.

  • Trekker digitally documents our planet for use in education, science, research, and raising public awareness. When anyone can instantly access detailed knowledge about any location, we become more informed global citizens. It also deepens appreciation for our planet, which means environmental responsibility becomes a personal and cultural value. We also knew the Trekker might not always be worn as a backpack and could be strapped to boats or ziplines as well for diverse documenting perspectives. We therefore designed large handles and modular straps using military-grade materials. We also improved the ergonomics by increasing the diameter and adjusting the angle of the top handles to aid the user's application and removal of the backpack. After many full-scale prototype studies, we landed on a funky but lovable appearance that fits the Google brand to a tee, functions perfectly, is compact and workable, and that users can easily take along their trailblazing adventures. Trekker has defined a new creative medium for adventurers, and has empowered the rest of the world to tag along. Rock Climber Tommy Caldwell said, "Trekker's 360-degree interactive images are the closest thing I've ever witnessed to actually being thousands of feet up a vertical rock face."