Virtual reality has a number of interesting applications. The ability to create a virtual world and then allow users to explore and manipulate it in ways that would otherwise be impossible has value for education, engineering, medicine, and. of course, gaming. It’s no wonder, then, that VR remains one of the most exciting fields in computing today.
When it comes to exploring the world, no application takes a more holistic view than Google Earth, which has long provided maybe the easiest way for anyone with an internet connection to fly around the globe and see almost anywhere that’s accessible to Google’s various resources. Therefore, it makes perfect sense that Google would make a Google Earth VR version, as has now been announced on the Steam community.
Google Earth VR comes a year after Google Earth itself celebrated its 10th anniversary. The app started out as a novelty but quickly evolved into something much more, and it is becoming the place where oddities like alleged UFOs and military bases were discovered. Google Earth has been used to discover long-lost civilizations and to identify illegal marijuana crops. Suffice it to say, the app has become a powerful way to visualize our planet, and bringing it to VR is a natural step in its storied evolution.
For now, Google Earth VR is launching on the HTC Vive, and it provides the ability to explore the same 196.9 million square miles as the 2D version of the app. The same cinematic tours are present, as are highlighted destinations to explore such as the Amazon River, the Manhattan skyline, the Grand Canyon, and the Swiss Alps.
Google Earth VR is free to play via Steam. While an HTC Vive is required for now, the app will support other VR platforms next year. The systems requirements for the game mimic those of VR systems in general, requiring a relatively hefty Windows 7 or later PC with at least an Intel Core i5-6500 processor equivalent or higher, 8GB of RAM, and at least an Nvidia GeForce GTX 970 or AMD Radeon R9 Fury.