Google Earth 6 is being introduced today. It includes a number of significant upgrades and improvements. Specifically, Street View has been more deeply integrated into Earth. Users now can fly “seamlessly” from space to the street wherever Google has Street View imagery.
Interestingly, Google is also introducing 3D trees to make Google Earth’s 3D environments more realistic. And finally, Google has added more historical imagery, which allows users to see earlier photography of the same location on a timeline (from 1945 to the present).
Each of these changes makes sense and enriches the Google Earth experience. Most intriguing to me, however, was the addition of 3D trees.
Google said that more than 50 species of trees are represented in a number of 3D-modeled parks and public places around the world: New York, San Francisco, Berlin, Athens and Toyko, with more cities to come. These are not just “generic” tree images, but attempt to reflect the actual tree species in their respective locations. All the trees have been generated automatically without hand rendering.
In Berlin’s Tiergarten Park, for example, the 3D trees include the following species:
- Small-leaved Linden (Tilia cordata)
- Norway Maple (Acer platanoides)
- Pin Oak (Quercus palustris)
- London Plane (Platanus acerifolia)
- European Beech (Fagus sylvatica)
- Black Locust (Robinia pseudoacacia)
- True Service Tree (Sorbus domestica)
Here are a couple of screenshots of the new 3D trees in context (San Francisco, Athens):
Below are videos that go into more detail about each of the improvements.
Integrated Street View:
My view has always been that Google Earth is “cool” and a great research tool but not very practical for everyday use. However I was surprised to learn that the iPhone version of Earth is used more than Google Earth for the Mac. I predict that the tablet version of the app may turn out to be even more widely adopted.