Leap Motion controller brings Google Earth to your fingertips

Google Earth Leap Motion April 22 2013Check out our full review of the Leap Motion gesture controller.

Happy Earth Day! Today is a day to remind ourselves why Mother Earth is worth protecting, and what better way to see our vast planet in action than by taking an environmentally sustainable, virtual journey through Google Earth?

To make your digital spin around the planet that much more fun, Google is releasing the Google Earth 7.1 update for both the free and professional desktop versions today, which adds support for the 3D motion-controlled Leap Motion controller.

The $80 Leap Motion controller is just about the size of a pack of gum and adds Kinect-like, hands-free gesture controls to navigate the computer. See our hands-on video from CES to get a better sense of how it works. Just last week, the company also announced that it’s embedding its Leap technology into upcoming HP devices. Needless to say, it’s been a big week for Leap Motion.

For the thousands of Leap Motion developers around the world who already have one of these devices to play with, they’ll get first dibs on controlling Google Earth with their fingers today. Since Leap Motion CEO and co-founder Michael Buckwald wants to “see what new explorations people leap into,” developers are encouraged to submit videos of their sojourns around the virtual world, using the hashtag #leapinto to tag their clips. The company will be rounding up all the #leapinto videos into a YouTube playlist, inevitably making us even more impatient for our own device.

Whether you’re a fan who either pre-ordered the hands-free controller sometime between now and last May, or you just plan on grabbing one from Best Buy on May 19, you’ll be able to explore Google Earth with just your digits once you get your hands on the tiny perhipheral. According to company, the Google Earth update should be compatible on every platform: Windows (7 and 8), Mac OS (10.7 and 10.8), and Linux. The device will also feature its own app store, Airspace, where you’ll be able to purchase unique apps that its developers have been working on for the device.

There are still several weeks between now and May 19, so we’ll just have to make do with watching others on YouTube wave their hands around Google Earth while we patiently await our turn.