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Google Street View Documents 5 Blind Veterans Kayaking the Grand Canyon


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Street View is Google's premiere technology to experience areas around the globe in 360 degrees. Google sought to increase engagement with Street View, raise awareness of the ability for anyone to create User Street View (uSV)images, and bring users along on an extraordinary and visually-captivating journey. The goal was to use Street View to create a powerful, shareable video and 360-degree panoramic photo gallery that could be shared worldwide as an example of the way Street View can document not just incredible landscapes but powerful stories and experiences.


To spotlight the power of 360 storytelling, the team sought to enable incredible characters to use uSV to share their stories with the world. There was no better partner for this project than Lonnie Bedwell, a US Navy veteran who had become the first blind person to kayak the Grand Canyon three years earlier. Google partnered with Bedwell and nonprofit Team River Runner to organize the first-ever team of 5 blind kayakers - all veterans - as they navigated 226 miles down the Grand Canyon.

The kayakers were equipped with 360-degree helmet cameras so viewers could both explore the stunning landscape and appreciate the kayakers’ skill through a first-person perspective.


User data indicates that iconic landmarks are already the most explored by Street View users, so Google knew that a gallery at the Grand Canyon would attract viewers. This project targeted consumers broadly, with particular emphasis on outdoor enthusiasts who could be inspired to document their own adventures and contribute to Street View’s galleries.

With an incredible story paired with stunning footage, the project was perfect for a social and influencer-targeted campaign. The panoramic photography was especially important to this piece, as the Street View would offer a never-before-seen interactive view of the Grand Canyon and encourage users to share the project. Social landscape research revealed that veterans’ stories receive high engagement, especially among tight-knit military community.

In September 2018, the kayakers kicked off their 13-day journey, documented from start to finish by Street View. Meanwhile, key influencer partnerships were developed to maximize the video’s exposure to future adventurers.


To capitalize on a trending holiday, the project launched on Veterans Day 2018 with 360-degree photos embedded in Street View and across Google’s social channels. Creative executions included a 4-minute video, 360 video, a 1-minute cut, Instagram story and stills. In the week after launch, Google’s goals were met with an unprecedented 10.3M organic Street View visits.

The campaign was entirely organic, focused on shares outside of Google’s traditional “tech audience”. Outdoor influencers like GoPro, Chris Burkard, and Jimmy Chin shared the project, as did many national veterans’ service organizations. Millions learned that blind athletes can thrive in even extreme sports.

The Street View photos and kayakers were also featured on the Today Show and their compelling story ran in dozens of publications.


In the week after launch, Google’s goals were met with an unprecedented 10.3M organic Street View visits. More than 3.9M viewers watched Google’s Instagram story. The feature video was viewed 300,000 times and 57,000 people explored the 360 video.

The Street View photos and kayakers were also featured on the Today Show and their story ran in dozens of publications. Influencer shares and traditional media amplified total content views to 24.2M. Team River Runner saw impressive support, with veterans reaching out to get involved with local chapters, as shown by this comment on social: "Man I just watched this and think it's so amazing! I'm a coast guard veteran and this is just so inspirational to me! I just emailed the local chapter so hopefully I'll be getting involved."

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