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Google Earth Receives Dramatic New Update

In its biggest update yet, Google Earth adds new features and overhauls its interface.

A big update dropped for Google Earth yesterday which overhauls the interface and adds several new features. The coolest feature is undoubtedly Voyager, which offers several guided tours of the planet. You can select from various topics, such as tours of national parks, famous buildings, or UNESCO World Heritage sites, and Earth will take you from spot to spot and showcase a handful of locations. On one side of the screen, you’ll have a bird’s eye view of the area, while the right side of the screen will have a short description, and some kind of media. At its simplest, the media may be images of the location, but there’s also video clips, and sometimes 360-degree video tours. One of the national parks tours for example, begins by showing you a 360-degree guided tour of a glacial crevasse!

Another new feature is an “I’m feeling lucky” button, which throws you to a random location on the planet. When using this feature (or the search function), you’ll notice another cool feature which enhances your exploration. Google have integrated their search engine technology into Earth to provide “knowledge cards” containing a blurb about any location you happen to end up at.

The interface has been overhauled as well, and while it does look more modern, it is somewhat clunky to use. A slim panel of buttons on the left and navigational controls in the lower right corner are all you have to obstruct the view of the planet, but it seems as if the focus on slim design means some control has been sacrificed. For one, there’s no longer a zoom slider (just zoom buttons), and no rotate view buttons. Since these controls are largely accessible from your mouse, it isn’t a major problem, but the mini-map poses some serious drawbacks. In previous versions of Earth, a panning button allowed for an alternative to moving the map around, but that has been removed and replaced by a miniature globe. The globe highlights your location with a red X (or, when zoomed out, a red shape showing your field of view). You can use the mouse to navigate this globe, but it’s made difficult since you can only see one half of the planet at a time. Navigating involves click dragging to form an arrow and then releasing the mouse button and getting a short fly-to animation. It’s pretty, but not very functional.

One noteworthy change is that Earth is no longer the ‘download alternative’ to Google Maps. If you’re using Chrome, you can access Earth from your browser. It’s still available as a downloadable version of course, and there’s an Android app, both of which look as pretty as the online version. The overhaul is apparently the result of two years of work by Google.

source: Business Insider

David F.
A grad student in experimental physics, David is fascinated by science, space and technology. When not buried in lecture books, he enjoys movies, gaming and mountainbiking

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