When you encounter someone from Google Street View, it’s usually pretty obvious: a car mounted with a tall camera or more recently, a hiker with the company’s large Trekker camera. Now Google has patented a walking stick that captures images whenever it hits the ground, GeekWire’s Todd Bishop reported.

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The stick has an inertial measurement unit, which is just a geeky way to say it contains a sensor that “provides location information about the position of the elongated member,” according to the patent text. Yes, the patent is all about Google’s elongated member.

A sketch from the patent application shows that the camera is located at the top of the stick and there are multiple location sensors, a battery and a processing system in the middle and a switch at the bottom. Each one would be adjustable, like a nice trekking pole. I couldn’t get the images to appear on the patent page, but GeekWire has a sketch. Every time the stick hits the ground, it automatically takes a photo and records its location.

The interesting part here is that the patent extends to stick-like objects such as a cane, a crutch, a monopod, a trekking pole, a rod or a staff. I can just see a Googler using a camera-laden staff on the trail dressed like Gandalf. Only seems right. And what about a crutch? Will Google Trail View staffers be required to perform their duties while on crutches? Someone might want to alert OSHA.

I can see how a hiking aid with a smaller camera would be easier for Google’s team to use on the trail than the current Trekker packs in their effort to provide Trail Views. Existing Trekkers strike me as rather awkward to take around. But the advantage is that they’re incredibly obvious to the trail-visiting public. A walking stick raises concerns about the expectation of privacy on the trail. The blurring algorithm on Google Maps doesn’t always work.

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So far there hasn’t been any announcement about when Google will put its patented technology to use but with the summer travel season already upon us, I expect we’ll see it being tested soon. They really do need Gandalf, though. After all, as Google maps reminds us, one does not simply walk into Mordor.

Photo: The Google Street View team with their backpack-style Trekkers in Grand Canyon National Park last year. Credit: Google