The Google Patented Walking Stick

Attention all trail hikers and avid walkers! Google has patented a walking stick with a
camera on top of it that takes a photo every time the stick makes contact with the
ground.

The invention is to map areas beyond the reach of the “Street View” van and will give
some lucky Google workers the job of hiking in some beautiful areas and taking
pictures along the way with the Google Walking Stick.

I would LOVE that job! Google if you are listening I will do the West Country!.

Here’s a diagram of what features the walking stick will have:

Walking Stick fig1
Walking Stick fig1

Previously, Google employees used bikes, snowmobiles and/or carried special
camera mounted rucksacks to map such inaccessible areas.

The Patent Application
The Patent application has been granted and you can read the abstract, background
and summary from the descriiption below. You can also read the whole patent
application if you are really interested by using the Google Patent Search.

Walking stick with IMU

ABSTRACT
An elongated member is provided with one or more imaging sensors, location
sensors, and a switch in its bottom end. For example, in an embodiment the
elongated member may be a walking stick and the one or more imaging sensors may
be one or more cameras Such a walking stick takes pictures of its surrounding
environment and keeps records of its location when the switch touches the ground, so
that the pictures and location information can be used to create a virtual simulation of
the area that a user of the walking stick has walked through.

BACKGROUND

Presently, an interactive navigation system displays images taken from a fleet of
specially adapted cars. Areas not accessible by car, like pedestrian areas, narrow
streets, alleys and ski resorts, are sometimes covered by tricycles or snowmobiles.
These vehicles typically use multiple directional cameras for 360.degree. views at a
standard height, GPS units for positioning and laser range scanners for the measuring
location in the front of the vehicle.

Where available, navigation images can appear after zooming in beyond the highest
zooming level in maps and satellite images, and also by dragging a “pegman” icon
onto a location on a map. A user can select the horizontal and vertical viewing
direction and the zoom level can be selected. A solid or broken line in the photo shows
the approximate path followed by the camera car, and arrows link to the next photo in
each direction. At junctions and crossings of camera car routes, more arrows are
shown.

However, even the use of vehicles such as tricycles or snowmobiles does not offer
access to areas where vehicular travel is difficult, such as in rugged areas or areas
where roads are not present.

BRIEF SUMMARY

Embodiments relate to an elongated member with environmental image-gathering
features and a related method for capturing one or more environmental images.

According to an embodiment, an elongated member with environmental image-
gathering features is provided. The elongated member has a top end and a bottom
end, the elongated member configured to be carried by a user. One or more imaging
sensors are coupled to the walking stick. There is a switch coupled to the bottom of
the elongated member that activates the one or more imaging sensors to capture one
or more images of the environment surrounding the elongated member each time the
switch receives a signal that the user has planted the bottom end of the elongated
member on a surface.

According to another embodiment, a method is provided for capturing one or more
environmental images. A contact signal is received from a sensor on a bottom end of
an elongated member. In response to the contact signal, one or more images are
captured of the environment surrounding the elongated member using one or more
imaging sensors coupled to the walking stick. This process is repeated as the bottom
end of the elongated member is re-planted.

Further embodiments, features, and advantages of the invention, as well as the
structure and operation of the various embodiments of the invention are described in
detail below with reference to accompanying drawings.