First Look at Google Earth 6

It seems like it was a stealth release.  There was no big fanfare or announcement about the release of Google Earth 6 that cross my desk.  But, I just happened to stumble onto the news and, of course, grabbed it immediately to kick the tires.  I’ve always been fascinated by maps and geography and Google Earth just brings so much to the table for me.

When I look at major upgrades or new software titles, I look at the new features and then try to put them into a personal context and get an idea of what they can do for me.  I had a whale of a time with the new features this time around.

Street View
I’m a real fan of this feature and have used it all over the place.  It’s a real crowd pleaser when you demonstrate it for the first time but really goes over the top when you do something nice with it.  My favourite, of course, was messing around with “My Childhood Community“.  I had used Google Maps previously.  Now, the same functionality and seemingly easier 3D navigation is available in Google Earth.  For students, we would call it the golden dude but I learned today that Google calls it “Pegman”.  Just as with Google Maps, drag the character to the map and plop it down on the highlighted blue tracks that indicate that imagery is available and voila, there’s your image.

As I took a nostalgic tour through the original blog post, I realized that I neglected introducing you to the Clinton Arena.  So, here you go.  It’s on the left and the grandstand for the harness racing track is on the right.

3D Trees
Yes, there are trees and they are in 3D.  It’s a matter of zooming to street level and looking around.  Google gives the example of wandering around the rain forest and sure enough, the 3D Buildings layer reveals gorgeous scenery when you get to the right places.  One of the places that is ready to go with tree is Chicago.

I headed on down in Street View to see this on East Balbo Avenue.

Ah, but let’s turn on the 3D layer with the Ground View toggle (top right of screen) and see the trees!  Just don’t complain that they don’t change with the seasons.

Now, Google has been collecting imagery for a long time now.  It’s a testament to the logic of never throwing anything away that leads to this next feature.  Where multiple images of a place exist, a little slider lets you turn the clock backward or forward to see things.

Now, going to the Faculty of Education at the University of Toronto, I would get off the subway at Yonge and Bloor and go to a walk during the nice weather.  (Otherwise it was at Spadina).

Looking down at Yonge and Bloor with 3D buildings turned off reveals this as the most current image.

Let’s roll the clock back to 2002…

It’s an urban studies delight.  It’s also a tribute to good quality cameras!

Heading down to Street View, we can see that like most places in Ontario, there’s a great deal of construction.

But, heh, heh, this artist’s rendition (switching to ground level view) shows that it’s going to be great when finished.

Other than nostalgia, what’s a practical use for this?  Well, entire buildings have come and gone in the time span for some locations.  Take Ford Field in Detroit, for example in 1999 it looks like it was a parking lot…

And the beautiful structure with Comerica Park along side today.

I just spent way too much time playing around with this.  The history timeline is really something worthy of a great deal of play.  Depending upon the location, the images go back a long way.  I took a look at the Googleplex and its timeline dates back to 1948.

So, if you’re a Google Earth user, you’ve got to go out and download this new release and just prepare yourself for a great deal of exploration as this phenomenal tool just gets so much more loaded with features.

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