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Group Builds Application to Find Duo Lost in Peruvian Andes [UPDATE]

In what could either be the worst publicity stunt ever or a fascinating use of the internet, the folks behind Tomnod have created an application where people can comb through satellite imagery from the Andes in order to try and find two friends that have gone missing in the mountains. If users find evidence of hikers, camps, or recent avalanches, the instructions say to mark them and the data will be aggregated to provide decent data as to where Ben Horne and Gil Weiss have gone.

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The website states that the satellite imagery that users can search for signs within was taken on July 26th by DigitalGlobe. Comparing the recent imagery with older can, theoretically, provide a nice snapshot of the changes present between when the duo started their climb and when DigitalGlobe took their own images. The data mined from this operation will then be pooled to give the most likely examples of human traffic in the area.

As stated before, if this is some kind of marketing stunt then it’s in incredibly poor taste. Relying on the good nature of the internet to spread your brand is despicable. When you first visit the map, it asks you to register in order to keep track of your contributions. However, if this pans out, the horrifying reality of that matter is that folks can and still do get lost on a regular basis even in our advanced technological society. In the case of the latter, Tomnod’s just using what they have available to them to try and help friends who quite likely could be in need.

The site has a few issues with specific browsers, like Chrome, but works fine if you want to peruse the map and try to help.

UPDATE: Totally legit, and concerning, according to USA Today. You can read more about the search at Tomnod’s blog post. Full text of original post appears above.

UPDATE #2: Tomnod‘s reporting Ben and Gil’s bodies were found. The intriguing search ends on a tragic note.

(Tomnod via Hacker News, image credit via Felipe Araya Allende)

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