Google Earth has just gotten much easier to use and now has some striking new features.
The Mountain View tech giant rolled out the new version of Earth on April 18, on the firm’s Chrome browser. An Android mobile operating system version will be launched in the coming week, with versions for Apple’s iOS and other browsers coming “in the near future,” Google said in a blog post.
New features include “Voyager,” a collection of guided virtual tours of locations such as Gombe National Park in Tanzania, where viewers can “hear from Jane Goodall about her team’s chimpanzee research and conservation efforts.”
On the left side of the screen is one member of a pair of dice. This is the “I’m feeling lucky” icon, and it brings the user to a spot on the globe of Google’s choosing. On our first test use, we were taken to Happo-One Ski Resort in Japan. Unfortunately, the imagery appeared to be from fall, not ideal for virtually viewing a winter wonderland.
So we took another geographical gamble. And happily, we ended up in Jamaica! Dunns River Falls, however, was obscured by jungle. But no matter — the world is our oyster.
It seems the third time’s the charm, as Earth took us to one of our favorite countries, Greece, and deposited us on the island of Cythera, where we studied the gorgeous beaches and turquoise waters and made plans in our head to visit for real.
While Voyager has some interesting content, and the “feeling lucky” button provides a bit of fun and possible future-travel fodder, the best thing about the new Earth is how fast, smooth and easy it is to change perspectives. By clicking on the shift key and using the cursor, adjusting viewing angle feels intuitive, and allows for quick, sweeping changes of viewpoint.
Photo: Technology workers are seen outside a Google office building (Bay Area News Group)