A virtual walking tour with a mouse scroll wheel is one of the new features in Google Earth 6.0. The streets available to tour on Google Earth are in selected city locations and highlighted in blue. Google Earth 6.0 also makes it significantly easier to access historical images. Backgrounds in Google Earth are now filled with 3-D constructs.
Google introduced a major upgrade for Google Earth on Monday that gives users the ability to zoom in on many locations on the planet and instantly transform the perspective to a view from the street. The free Google Earth 6 release also includes other new features for exploring the planet virtually, including historical images for selected urban locations.
Though Street View took its inaugural bows in Google Earth during 2008, the new release now fully integrates the virtual walking tour experience. “You can journey from outer space right to your doorstep in one seamless flight,” noted Google Earth Product Manager Peter Birch in a blog.
Google Earth at Ground Level
The streets available for conducting virtual walking tours are all in selected city locations. To switch to Street View mode, drag the Google Pegman icon at the top of the zoom control onto any road highlighted in blue, Birch wrote.
“Unlike our earlier Street View layer, you can now move seamlessly from one location to another as if you’re walking down the street by using the scroll wheel on your mouse or the arrow keys on your keyboard,” Birch wrote. “If you want to visit somewhere farther away, simply click the ‘exit’ button and you’ll immediately return to an aerial view where you can easily fly to your next destination.”
Google Earth 6 integrates a huge array of photos of major urban areas, including major landmarks and tourist attractions such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. When visiting these locations using Google Earth, users are able to pan 360 degrees to view everything else in the area.
Though historical photos have been available in Google Earth since 2006, the new release makes it significantly easier for users to discover and access these images. “When you fly to an area where historical imagery is available, the date of the oldest imagery will appear in the status bar at the bottom of the screen,” Birch wrote. “If you click on this date, you’ll instantly be taken back in time to view imagery from that time period.”
With Google Earth 6, the goal is to enhance the program’s realism by shading in previously empty backgrounds with 3-D constructs of buildings, trees and landscape. Over the past few years, Google has learned how to represent trees in a realistic way that can scale to cover places in Google Earth where trees exist en masse, such as urban parks and large forests.
More than 50 different tree species are currently available in 3-D views of downtown San Francisco and Golden Gate Park, as well as in major park areas of Chicago, New York City, Athens, Berlin and Tokyo. “With 3D trees in Google Earth, we’ve brought characteristic trees to life, from the palm trees that dot San Francisco’s bay-front Embarcadero Street, to the olive trees that cling to the Acropolis in Athens, to the flowering dogwoods found in Tokyo’s parks,” wrote Google Earth Program Manager Raleigh Seamster in a blog.
The Google Earth window is full of data that in dense urban areas will clutter the screen. However, the controls on the left side of the window give users the ability to click on or off the data points they wish to see — from roads, photos and 3-D images of major buildings to icons representing local businesses, parks and government offices.