When Google Earth first launched, it put global imaging in the hands of everyday users, letting all of us take a look at our homes, our neighborhoods, and our cities via satellite imagery. Back in 2005, it was a remarkable experience, but over the years it’s been sidelined by Google Maps and the ubiquity of map applications with satellite imagery.
Now, Google aims to change all that, unveiling a radically revamped version of Earth. Since it was never really intended to be a navigational aid, and other tools have filled that role, the new Google Earth is all about exploration — about taking you on a voyage.
The reimagined Google Earth debuted on the web, Android, and Chrome in April, but has just finally made its way to iOS. Meanwhile, Google Earth VR, which launched on the HTC Vive late last year, is available on the Oculus Rift.
“Nearly everyone who’s opened Google Earth in the last decade does the same thing first: They search for their home,” said Gopal Shah, product manager for Google Earth. “Home is how we orient ourselves — it’s where we start from.”
That’s how the new version of Google Earth came to be. By looking at the first experiences people had with it, Google tailored the new version to be something more than just a showcase for high-res satellite imagery. The new version of Google Earth introduces “Voyager” — a framework for delivering in-depth stories from all over the world.
Think of it like your own personal version of Planet Earth. Voyager is a compilation of interactive guided tours put together by “the world’s leading storytellers, scientists, and nonprofits.”
Through Voyager, you can visit the Gombe Stream National Park, and listen to Jane Goodall talk about her team’s chimpanzee research while guiding you through the thick Tanzanian jungle. Or, you can visit Mexico with a furry pink monster named Lola, as part of Sesame Street’s “Girl Muppets Around the World” tour.
The new Google Earth doesn’t just take you to exotic locales — it can also take you home.
“Home is not just how we understand our place in the world — it’s a means to connect to something bigger than ourselves,” Shah said.
That’s an important theme for the new Google Earth — finding ways to connect people to different locales, different ways of life, and different homes. Through a special Voyager story titled “This is Home,” users can take a guided tour through a variety of traditional homes from different cultures and nations.
Update: Added iOS functionality.
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