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Google To Deliver The Amazon Jungle In 3-D

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Google To Deliver The Amazon Jungle In 3-D

Latin America

Google To Deliver The Amazon Jungle In 3-D

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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.


I'm Melissa Block. And it's time now for All Tech Considered.


BLOCK: Google has long offered anyone with an Internet connection a panoramic, street-level view of cities and landmarks around the world. Well, Google has now teamed up with a Brazilian environmental group to offer a limited, on-the-ground view of one of the planet's most remote areas: the Brazilian Amazon.

As NPR's Juan Forero reports from Tumbira, Brazil, the goal is to show how people in the Amazon live and to educate the public about their fight to protect the forest.


JUAN FORERO, BYLINE: To get to Tumbira means a boat ride on the Rio Negro, the fast-moving Black River deep in the biggest forest on Earth. And what you see in Tumbira are people hard at work...


FORERO: ...sawing wood-planks to build homes while children learn in a small, neatly kept schoolhouse. Soon, all this will be posted on Google Earth Outreach, which offers ground-to-sky, 360-degree photographs of isolated spots, in places where people and the environment may be under duress. It's an off-road answer to Google's popular Street View, which allows people to walk down the streets of New York or London, or glide over the Roman Coliseum, all while seated in front of a computer.


FORERO: A few weeks ago, Google came to this in Tumbira, in Amazonas state, invited by the Foundation for a Sustainable Development. FAS, as it's known, works with 7,500 families in 15 reserves - total area, the size of Virginia. The group helps those families develop industries that are dependent on an intact jungle - nut gathering, tourism, fishing, and tightly managed lumbering.

Because Tumbira's people have committed themselves to sustainable living, FAS invited Google to photograph here, a hamlet of just 100 people with no paved roads.

RAQUEL LUNA: One thing we always want people to know is that Amazon is not only about trees and biodiversity. OK, this is a lot and this is huge, but it's also about people and communities here and sustainable living of these communities.

FORERO: Raquel Luna, coordinator of FAS's efforts to educate villagers about conservation, says the people here are sometimes forgotten.

LUNA: They're doing a very important work on conserving the forest, which is very good for everyone.

FORERO: So, Google mounted its cameras on a special tricycle and took to Tumbira's trails...


FORERO: ...and into the jungle, a place where Cleudilan Silveira goes in search of birds.


FORERO: He calls out to them, catching sight of any number of species. Google's cameras also went on the Rio Negro and its tributaries.


FORERO: That's where the locals fish for the monster-sized pirarucu.

Karin Tuxen-Bettman of Google oversaw the work. She says that in a few weeks, when the images are ready, they'll offer a seamless experience for computer users.

KAREN TUXEN-BETTMAN: You're walking down the forest trail and it's a 360-degree panorama, so you can look up, you can look down on the ground. In one place, you'll be able to see an area where they gather Brazil nuts and there's Brazil nuts all over the floor.

FORERO: FAS says this project with Google can help generate tourism. And it'll also help FAS get the point across to the corporations it seeks as partners, like the American hotel chain that buys nuts from this region.

Jose Roberto Nascimento, leader of Tumbira, thinks investors do want to put their money into projects that can help conserve the forest.

JOSE ROBERTO NASCIMENTO: (Foreign language spoken)

FORERO: Nascimento says, though, that they first want to know if what they're being told about this place is real. With these photos, he says, they'll know.

Juan Forero, NPR News.

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