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Google's Street View of Amazon -- the real Amazon -- now live

Rio Negro tributary

Google Wednesday shared photos and video from its Street View project in the Amazon, an enormous project it began last summer:

"Last August, a few members of our Brazil and U.S. Street View and Google Earth Outreach teams were invited to the Amazon Basin to collect ground-level images of the rivers, forest and communities in the Rio Negro Reserve," Karin Tuxen-Bettman, project lead for Google Street View in the Amazon, says on a company blog.

"Today, on World Forest Day, we’re making those images available through the Street View feature on Google Maps. Now anyone can experience the beauty and diversity of the Amazon."

Street View, a sometimes-controversial, but fascinating program, provides 360-degree images taken by Google, which users can view on Google Maps by zooming in on any point on a map.

Specifically, you can:

Take a virtual boat ride down the main section of the Rio Negro, and float up into the smaller tributaries where the forest is flooded. Stroll along the paths of Tumbira, the largest community in the Reserve, or visit some of the other communities who invited us to share their lives and cultures. Enjoy a hike along an Amazon forest trail and see where Brazil nuts are harvested. You can even see a forest critter if you look hard enough!

Tuxen-Bettman says that Google strapped its Street View camera and bike to a boat that went down the Amazon's waterways, "pedaled around the local trails and communities, and used tripod technology to gather images of interior locations like schools and community centers." The tripod camera has a fisheye lens.

There are more than 50,000 still photos that were stitched together to create the "immersive, 360-degree panoramic views," which are stunning.

The project was done in partnership with the Amazonas Sustainable Foundation (FAS). To learn more, watch Google's video:

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