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April 21, 2017

Google Earth — New, improved, and all in all irresistible

There goes the day.

But don't take my word for it — here's what The Verge had to say:

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Just in time for Earth Day, Google has redesigned Google Earth for web and Android.

The new version adds new features that let users see 3D maps of specific locations, learn about random places around the world, and take guided tours from their Chrome browser or mobile devices.

Those tours are interactive, and are led by scientists, documentarians, and other experts, helping users learn about our world.

Google says more than 50 are available already — under the service's new 'Voyager' section — including a tour of the Tanzanian Gombe National Park led by primate expert Jane Goodall and her team.

Also available are video journeys to six different habitats produced by BBC Earth, and a kid-friendly jaunt to Mexico with Sesame Street muppet Lola, to learn about Mayan ruins.

Click it and the service will take you somewhere unexpected, from opera houses in Italy to hot springs in Japan, before showing you a 'knowledge card' of interesting facts.

While you're there, you'll also be able to see the location in three dimensions in your browser or on your mobile device, using the service's new 3D feature.

Press the 3D button in the corner of the UI and you'll be able to get a movable drone's-eye view of historical, geographical, or architectural marvels around the world.

The revamped Google Earth — which the company says was two years in the making — is now available in Chrome or on Android, and will be coming to iOS and other browsers in the future.

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And Gizmodo:

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Google Earth is one of the purest, most beautiful gifts the company has ever given us.
 
Tuesday, the globe-trotting software received a major overhaul that will delight hardcore fans and remind others that it's still a great way to throw away hours of your life.
 
It's been two years since the search giant last gave Google Earth a major update and it seems as if the virtual globe has become a new priority for the company.
 
Last October, a new virtual reality version was introduced and now several additions have made the application extra sticky.
 
One of the biggest changes is that it no longer has to be a separate app that you download.
 
On a desktop, you can just go to the URL in Chrome and start exploring.
 
This may seem minor but you'll now be seeing a lot more of Google Earth because there's no need to open a separate app and sharing is an emphasized feature.
 
With the Android app, you can quickly share a digital postcard with your contacts.
 
The ability to use the service in browser is also a big deal for Chromebook users who were previously locked out.
 
Above all the other updates, the most significant overall is the new "Voyager" feature, available by clicking the ship's wheel icon.
 
Google has partnered with organizations like BBC Earth and DigitalGlobe to create little informative experiences.
 
Clicking on 'Endangered Species Around the World' will show you the locations of various endangered species and give you photos and a 'knowledge card' offers some background about them.
 
It's kind of like Wikipedia mixed with Google Earth.
 
'Itineraries' offers guided tours of cities, and a lot more information has been added to major destinations.
 
So far, there are a little over 50 stories but Google plans to add more every week.
 
There are also 20,000 destinations with knowledge cards.
 
It seems all but inevitable that a crowdsourcing model will be implemented eventually to flesh this tool out.
 
If you want to go off the beaten trail, there's an 'I'm feeling lucky' button.
 
The first time I clicked it, I got Fukuoka Tower in Fukuoka, Japan —  cool tower.
 
It was also a great destination for trying out the new 3D features that allow you to explore renderings of major cities and landmarks from any angle.
 
We're still not close to photorealism yet but it has a lovely SimCity-esque quality.
 
All-in-all, it's a solid refresh for Google Earth and I probably lost about 45 minutes of my night playing with it.
 
But 'lost' is really the wrong word.
 
I visited some far-flung locations, learned some factoids about the lined seahorse, and was once again reminded why Earth is the best planet.
 
I also learned that my neighbors have a pool that I never noticed before.

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Google Earth

April 21, 2017 at 12:01 PM | Permalink


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