Tuesday, November 30, 2010

New Google Earth 6

Google has just introduced the newest version of Google Earth, Google Earth 6.

This latest incarnation follows last June's Google Earth 5.2 and adds three major updates to the virtual geographical tool: integrated Street View, 3D trees, and an improved historical imagery system.

While Street View was first introduced in 2008, the newest version integrates the up-close, photographic imagery of the original with the maps, satellite images and computerized renderings that characterize the birds-eye view. Though toggling between the different perspectives used to be more unwieldy, 6.0 allows the user to see when Street View is available by highlighting roads blue when the Pegman icon is dragged over the image. Apart from the new method of entering Street View, the Street View layer itself has been streamlined to allow easier navigation around the layer with mouse or arrow keys.

Earlier versions of Google Earth already rendered buildings in 3D, but 6.0 also adds 3D trees to the landscape. Not content to populate the virtual globe with the generic lollipop variety, Google Earth 6.0 actually includes highly detailed models for dozens of species of trees. They've already 'planted' 80 million trees in Athens, Berlin, Chicago, New York City, San Francisco and Tokyo. Apart from helping the simulation's realism, Google is also working to model endangered forests in places like Brazil and Africa as a part of their Google Earth Outreach program.

The update to the historical imagery tool in Google Earth is minor, but helps draw attention to one of the program's most interesting features. Google Earth already had satellite and aerial imagery documenting recent disasters like the 2010 Haiti Earthquake before and after, as well as visions of London in 1945 and Warsaw in 1935, but the update makes it much easier to use the feature. Now, anytime a user is in an area where historical imagery is available, a pop-up appears in the bottom of the screen displaying the oldest possible date for the location.


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