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Tired of waiting for Google Street View, Faroe Islanders create Sheep View 360

Google Street View and Google Earth have quietly, or not so quietly, done a great deal of crowdsourced data gathering in order to map the surface of the Earth. It seems like a Street View rig has gone to every corner of the earth. But not every last one. Street View has never been to the Faroe Islands. After receiving no official response to her petition to get Street View to check out the isolated country, a Faroe Islander named Durita Dahl Andreassen has decided to enlist her island’s preponderance of sheep to open up the Faroe Islands to Google Street View. The project is called SheepView360.

The Faroe Islands are a string of gorgeous, rocky islands between Scotland and Iceland, tucked away in the North Atlantic far from the clamor of the larger world. That’s actually part of the problem. In a place isolated enough to host 80,000 sheep, but not quite 50,000 people, it’s the very epitome of “off the beaten path.”

Andreassen has some thoughts on straying from the beaten path, though. Joining forces with an inventor and a local shepherd, she came up with custom-fitted harnesses that “gently placed” a 360° camera on the back of one of her own sheep. Then she sent it out to graze freely across the open hillsides of the Islands. The camera sent stacks of images back to Andreassen, who then uploaded them to Google Street View herself, putting the Faroe Islands on the map in a novel way. (The name of the country may actually derive from the local word for “sheep.”) The Faroe Islands board of tourism was so chuffed about the project that they’ve put it front and center on the Visit Faroe Islands splash page.

Sadly, though, sheep aren’t really much help when trying to actually image the roadways, which is sort of the point of Street View. Google hasn’t specifically committed to covering the Faroe Islands yet — they don’t say when they’re going to take the Street View equipment to a given place, probably because people will do outrageously stupid things trying to get a selfie on Street View. But the Maps blog points out that regular people can upload pictures to Street View, or even apply to use Street View equipment. Andreassen has high hopes about the whole thing. Furthermore, there exist independent mapping ventures that use OpenStreetView, so even if Google doesn’t come to the Faroe Islands, they aren’t beholden to a principally American company for international exposure.

This isn’t the only time a project has brought together Google and sheep, by the way. Last year, to celebrate 2015 — the Year of the Sheep — the Google Sheep View blog was launched to showcase pictures of sheep appearing on Street View. We can’t decide whether it’s hilarious or a little creepy that the internet is self-aware enough to immediately connect the two, because the Sheep View blog links to SheepView360°. But there’s also an unlikely trine between Google Street View and sheep, and this one involves Terry Pratchett. Somewhere in rural Northern Ireland, a pastoral Street View scene of lounging sheep caught the eye of an artist who also happens to be a Terry Pratchett fan — resulting in a piece of art actually entitled “Ship Beasties.”

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