We turned day into night with Google Earth on Oculus Rift, and it was breathtaking

Thanks to Google, you can spend Earth Day in 2017 by flying around the planet — in virtual reality.

Google Earth got a massive revamp today, but the search giant also brought its Google Earth VR app to the Oculus store. The experience has been available for the HTC Vive since the end of 2016, and bringing it to the Oculus Rift means a wider audience. We got a chance to travel to various countries in VR with the Rift at a Google event in New York City. Suffice to say it’s an experience that will have you coming back for more.

“It’s an experience that will have you coming back for more.

The Oculus version of the Earth VR app works just like the Vive experience, except you’ll be using Facebook’s new Touch controllers. You start out in space, but you can use the the analog stick on the right-hand controller to zoom in to anywhere on Earth; the secondary index trigger lets you rotate the camera horizontally. You don’t have to stick to a bird’s eye view either as there’s a 3D view that lets you look at stunningly detailed content. Google said Maps is powered with satellite imagery as well as aerial photography — the latter often looks better and is prevalent in featured places, like Florence, Italy. Colombo, Sri Lanka, only used satellite imagery, and while it still looked great, it wasn’t as impressive.

Speaking of featured content — pressing the Y button on the left-hand controller opens up menu overlay, which lets you scroll through featured places to visit. You can also browse through some cinematic Tours of select areas here, and these are gorgeous shots mixed with heartwarming music that may or may not make your eyes well up.

If you’re planning a trip and are scoping out things to see, what’s neat is you can save locations by holding the X button.

But the killer feature in Google Earth VR is the godlike ability to control the sun. Find the source of light, click and drag it past the horizon to mask the world in darkness — and you’ll then see a brilliant sky lit up with the Milky Way. It’s a jaw-dropping moment, and we can’t see it ever getting old.

If you have an Oculus Rift, you can check out the new free experience at the Oculus store now. Again, it’s been available for Vive users for some time now, but you can grab it here if you haven’t checked it out yet. Is it worth buying a VR-ready PC and VR headset for Google Earth VR? Maybe not, but it’s a must-try experience if you have one lying around. We’re hoping Google brings it to more accessible VR platforms like Daydream and Samsung’s Gear VR.

Emerging Tech

Glowing space billboards could show ads in the night sky

Look up at the night sky in 2020 and you might see an ad for McDonald's floating among the stars. A Russian startup is working on a project that uses a constellation of small satellites in low-Earth orbit to create glowing ads.

Google is giving its G Suite web apps new touches of visual improvements

Your G Suite applications will soon have a different look. Several of the web apps are getting updated with subtle visual improvements inspired by Google's Material Design guidelines. 

How to switch TicHealth to Google Fit on the Mobvoi TicWatch C2 and TicWatch Pro

The Mobvoi TicWatch C2 and TicWatch Pro are both much-loved and feature-packed watches, and they offer excellent fitness tracking. Recently, Mobvoi has switched out Google Fit for TicHealth, but you can switch them back. Here's how.
Virtual Reality

Think virtual reality is just for games? These awesome apps will change your mind

Virtual reality isn't all about gaming. Swim with turtles, paint in 3D, and immerse yourself in some unique experiences the platform has to offer with our curated list of the best VR apps.

The Asus ZenBook 13 offers more value and performance than Apple's MacBook Air

The Asus ZenBook 13 UX333 is the latest in that company's excellent "budget" laptop line, and it looks and feels better than ever. How does it compare to Apple's latest MacBook Air?

AMD Radeon VII will support DLSS-like upscaling developed by Microsoft

AMD's Radeon VII has shown promise with early tests of an open DLSS-like technology developed by Microsoft called DirectML. It would provide similar upscale features, but none of the locks on hardware choice.

You could be gaming on AMD’s Navi graphics card before the end of the summer

If you're waiting for a new graphics card from AMD that doesn't cost $700, you may have to wait for Navi. But that card may not be far away, with new rumors suggesting we could see a July launch.

Is AMD's Navi back on track for 2019? Here's everything you need to know

With a reported launch in 2019, AMD is focusing on the mid-range market with its next-generation Navi GPU. Billed as a successor to Polaris, Navi promises to deliver better performance to consoles, like Sony's PlayStation 5.

Cortana wants to be friends with Alexa and Google Assistant

Microsoft no longer wants to compete against Amazon's Alexa and Google's Assistant in the digital assistant space. Instead, it wants to transform Cortana into a skill that can be integrated into other digital assistants.

Microsoft leans on A.I. to resume safe delivery of Windows 10 Update

Microsoft is leaning on artificial intelligence as it resumes the automatic rollout of the Windows 10 October 2018 Update. You should start seeing the update soon now that Microsoft has resolved problems with the initial software.

Stop dragging windows on your Mac. Here's how to use Split View to multitask

The latest iterations of MacOS offer a native Split View feature that can automatically divide screen space between two applications. Here's how to use Split View on a Mac, adjust it as needed, and how it can help out.

It's not all free money. Here's what to know before you try to mine Bitcoin

Mining Bitcoin today is harder than it used to be, but if you have enough time, money, and cheap electricity, you can still turn a profit. Here's how to get started mining Bitcoin at home and in the cloud.

Need a free alternative to Adobe Illustrator? Here are our favorites

Photoshop and other commercial tools can be expensive, but drawing software doesn't need to be. This list of the best free drawing software is just as powerful as some of the more expensive offerings.

What is fixed wireless 5G? Here’s everything you need to know

Here's fixed wireless 5G explained! Learn what you need to know about this effective new wireless technology, when it's available, how much it costs, and more. If you're thinking about 5G, this guide can help!