Earth view brings depth to Google's mapping service. It needs a browser plug-in for now some day we'll be cruising in 3D in Google's virtual world.
Stephen Shanklandprincipal writer
Stephen Shankland has been a reporter at CNET since 1998 and writes about processors, digital photography, AI, quantum computing, computer science, materials science, supercomputers, drones, browsers, 3D printing, USB, and new computing technology in general. He has a soft spot in his heart for standards groups and I/O interfaces. His first big scoop was about radioactive cat poop.
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Google on Monday augmented Google Maps with a feature called Earth view that brings the Google Earth software's 3D perspective to the Web browser.
Earth view is available through the installation of a browser plug-in Google originally issued in 2008. With it, people can see the contours of world--canyons and mountains, most dramatically--using the Google Earth fly-through interface.
Places with 3D building models look more interesting from ground level, but if your suburb hasn't received that treatment, the perspective mismatch can be a bit awkward when viewing the scene from an oblique angle farther from perpendicular.
You can try flicking the mouse to pan around, scrolling the mouse wheel to zoom in and out, and using Cntrl-drag to tilt the view from perpendicular to a more oblique angle. Google announced the Earth view on its corporate blog.
Here's how Google Product Manager Peter Birch described Earth View on the Lat-Long blog: "Those of you who aren't as familiar with Google Earth might be wondering how Earth view differs from the satellite view that's currently available in Maps. First of all, Earth view offers a true three-dimensional perspective, which lets you experience mountains in full detail, 3D buildings, and first-person dives beneath the ocean."
Here's my forecast for where this is headed: Eventually Google will have constructed an immersive 3D reproduction of the entire world that you can explore. How complete and up-to-date this virtual world will be remains to be seen, but the company is even photographing store interiors.
The Golden Gate Bridge, exists both with a nice 3D model above the Bay and as a spooky satellite-photo version that creeps across the underwater contour. The sparkling water surface looks very nice, though.