INNOVATION

Now You Can Walk The Songlines Of Uluru From Your Living Room

Australia's iconic red centre is now on Google Street View.

08/06/2017 4:18 PM AEST | Updated 08/06/2017 4:19 PM AEST

Wander down the dusty red tracks, gaze up at the majestic 348 metre-tall pillars of red rock and explore the water holes and caves of Australia's iconic Uluru -- all without leaving the house.

Google Maps is bringing one of Australia's most iconic landmarks and cultural sites to the world, with the launch on Thursday of a street view of Uluru and its surrounds to its interactive platform, Story Spheres.

Since Street View went global in 2008, it has captured hundreds of iconic locations across 83 countries -- the historic Colosseum of Rome, the heights of the Grand Canyon, the depths of the Great Barrier Reef and even the penguins and icebergs of Antarctica.

But Managing Director of Google Australia, Jason Pellegrino, said truly capturing the UNESCO World Heritage site of Uluru was unique, because it was about so much more than creating a physical tour of the majestic 9.4 kilometre-round rock.

The traditional owners, the Anangu people, have lived off the land at Uluru for more than 30,000 years. For them, there is no separation between the physical and the metaphysical -- the land, the rock and its people are all inextricably connected.

"We needed to capture the Tjukurpa, which is the traditional law of the Anangu people -- the stories, the song, the rich cultural heritage -- that is interwoven with the physical beauty and needs to be captured together and experienced together," Pellegrino explained.

Supplied: Google
Lindsey Dixon from Tourism Northern Territory captured the majestic sites of Uluru using the Google Trekker.

To this end, the street view imagery is accompanied by an audio tour featuring the history, songs and creation stories of the traditional owners of the land, as told through them.

Google has worked closely with the local people, as well as Tourism Northern Territory and Parks Australia, to ensure the local people's beliefs are respected. This means some sites are not captured, as they are sacred to the Anangu people.

"We had to get permits and go about it the right way and we had a bit of an induction at the centre on which sites we couldn't shoot or on which times of day were the best to shoot sites," explained Lindsay Dixen from Tourism Northern Territory.

She and a colleague walked the trials around Uluru captured by street view over two days with the iconic 18kg Google Trekker on her back.

An unearthly-looking device perched on top of a backpack, the Google Trekker uses 15 cameras to capture high-resolution images from every angle, which are then spliced together to create a dynamic 360 degree visual experience. Once the images are uploaded, users navigate the visual landscape with the help of a click-and-drop 'peg man'.

Supplied: Google
Sammy Wilson hopes the launch of Story Spheres will help more people understand the cultural significance of Uluru to the Anangu people.

"I hope people are inspired by it, I hope they want to learn more and I really, really hope they come and visit," Dixon told HuffPost Australia.

Four of Uluru's picturesque walks feature on the Story Spheres platform, allowing viewers countless perspectives on the majestic rock and its diverse landforms. Users can zoom in on waterholes, check out the native vegetation and look up and marvel at the ancient rock's immense size from below.

Dixon said she was blown away by the support and the enthusiasm of the Anangu people to have their story told.

One of these is traditional owner Sammy Wilson, who has been involved in the project for the past two years. He hopes the online platform will not only give more people the opportunity to see Uluru, but also help them understand its deep cultural and sacred significance.

"Sometimes visitors come here and they see a beautiful place, but they don't understand the Tjukurpa, the culture and the law and the knowledge and the history that this place holds... It's the living keeper of our culture," Wilson said.

"We want to teach those visitors about the Anangu understanding of this place."

Lara Pearce travelled to Uluru as a guest of Google.

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