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Googling Paris by tricycle

A three-wheeled contraption tooling through the City of Light is

August 09, 2009|Helene Goupil | Goupil writes for the Associated Press.

PARIS — Parisians and tourists, relax. That goofy-looking tricycle equipped with loads of high-tech equipment roaming the streets is not some mad scientist's invention on the rampage.

The three-wheeler is quite a sight with its long pole holding nine cameras, a global positioning system, a computer and a generator. But the contraption tooling around the French capital needs all that gear to do its job -- adding three-dimensional images to Google's Street View maps.

The U.S. company has hired two young cyclists to ride through gardens, historical sites and other pedestrian-only areas to take thousands of digital photos.

"The idea is to be able to offer 360-degree images of places that were inaccessible before," Google spokeswoman Anne-Gabrielle Dauba-Pantanacce said in an interview.

The riders, wearing Google T-shirts and white helmets, are visiting well-known sites such as the Chateau de Versailles, west of Paris; the Jardin du Luxembourg on the city's Left Bank; and Les Halles, in the busy city center.

Google is to map Paris until Aug. 20, then head to the north of the country.

Since its launch in 2007, Google's Street View has expanded to more than 100 cities worldwide, and not everyone is happy about it.

Last month, Greek officials rejected a bid to photograph the nation's streets until more privacy safeguards are provided. In April, residents of one English village formed a human chain to stop a camera van, and in Japan the company agreed to reshoot views taken by a camera high enough to peer over fences.

Spotted Friday at La Defense, the tricycle looked decidedly out of place at the modern high-rise business center on Paris' northwestern edge.

A clunky white pole in the back holds an octagonal platform with eight cameras on the sides and one on top. Every minute, the cameras take bursts of high-definition photos to allow online users to get a virtual tour of the area.

"I rode two hours this morning," said 25-year-old Gregory Landais, who was taking a break after cruising through La Defense.

The photos of Paris and other major French were expected to be available online by the end of the year.

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