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Google Earth gets snail's-eye view

Google Earth version 4.3 gives software users a street-level perspective, a feature taken from the Web-based Google Maps.

The new Google Earth incorporates the Street View feature of Google Maps.
The new Google Earth incorporates the Street View feature of Google Maps, including a full-screen option. Google

Part of the fun of Google Earth is flying over the virtual planet like Superman. But let's face it: we're ground-dwelling creatures, and the street-level view is useful, too. Even Superman has to land sometimes.

Enter Google Earth 4.3, due for release at about 8 p.m. Tuesday. It the Street View feature from Google Maps for a ground-level view of some areas, and a new navigation method makes the software more like a first-person video game, Google said in a statement.

The new version also lets users watch time-lapse views of sunsets and sunrises, either locally or when viewing the entire earth. It's also got faster, more realistic 3D graphics, Google said.

Google racing for 3D map supremacy against Microsoft, which has been pouring energy into its Virtual Earth and Live Maps technology, including a major upgrade last week. That technology also features 3D views of the planet and various cities, including updated version-2 graphics of four cities.