Lilian Pintea, chief scientist with the Jane Goodall Institute, demonstrates features on Google Earth, Tuesday, April 18, 2017, in New York. (AP Photo/Anick Jesdanun)
Google Earth gets a makeover
April 24, 2017
Google Earth is getting a revival. The 3-D mapping service will become more of a tool for adventure and exploration.
A central feature in the new Google Earth is Voyager. Google has partnered with such groups as the BBC and NASA. They add video clips, photos and text narratives to three-dimensional depictions of particular locations.
One example is the Jane Goodall Institute. It lets you journey to spots in Tanzania. Those places inspired Goodall. She is its founding chimpanzee expert. You can also get overlays of chimpanzee ranges. And you can compare imagery from 2005 and 2014. It allows viewers to see the effects of forest restoration efforts.
The producers of "Sesame Street" show off Muppets from co-productions around the world. The map shows where the Muppets live. The producers offer stories about the region and its culture.
There is a new "I'm Feeling Lucky" feature. It takes you to a location. It is selected at random. Google Earth is highlighting some 20,000 lesser-known places. These are the kinds of places locals might frequent or know about. One is the Indonesian island of Bunaken. It is part of a national marine park.
Google Earth used to be the place to go to for satellite views and 3-D images. They were stitched together from aerial fly-bys. A software download was needed. That limited its use. Google Maps has combined many of those features. It has made Google Earth even less necessary.
The update is about giving you a reason to use Google Earth again. Google says that while Maps is about getting you to a place, Earth is about immersing you there. Earth likes to say it is "getting lost."
With the update, Google Earth now works on Google's Chrome browsers for desktops. It still needs an app for phones and tablets. That's because of the heavy graphics involved. Google is rolling out updates for Android. But there's no Google Earth app for iPhones or iPads yet.
Some older features will still need a software download on desktops. That includes maps of Mars and the moon. These are available through a partnership with NASA.
Google also announced an update to a virtual-reality version of Google Earth. It now works with Facebook's Oculus Rift, not just the HTC Vive. But it won't work with cheaper, phone-based VR systems. Those include Google's Daydream and Samsung's Gear VR.
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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why wasn’t Google Earth more popular?
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