WELCOME TO EARTH
Google Earth has gotten a whole lot more incredible since you last Googled your old address or spied on that villa that looked so good in the brochure.
The world is a remarkable place and now you can experience even more of it without leaving the you-shaped spot on your well-worn sofa.
Last week, as part of a massive update, Google Earth introduced a interactive tour feature called ‘Voyager' bringing new innovations to truly inspire your inner globetrotter.
Voyager uses ‘thematic tours' which present ‘knowledge cards' to help you navigate the virtual planet. The cards provide factoids about sites and scenes throughout the world, using upgraded imagery to encourage you to go deeper into your exploration.
But with Voyager, the possibilities are already much more exciting than the premise. Here's everything you need to know about the new and improved Google Earth. Let the wanderlust begin.
Say, you're bored and you fancy pretending you're somewhere else. Voyager is your new best friend. More realistic than video, more stunning that still images and more inspiring than even the most well-travelled travel agent; Voyager will take you to places you've never even dreamed of and that's it's biggest selling point.
Forget randomly picking places on a map, in the hopes of finding paradise, or safely sticking to the cities that you're already familiar with because the new Google Earth presents you with dozens of beautifully curated journeys from unexpected places right across the globe.
The updates also present plenty of potential for businesses, particularly those in the visitor economy, looking for a more engaging way to showcase themselves or their service to the world.
WHERE WILL IT TAKE YOU?
You might be a weekend in The Cotswolds kind of person (and there's nothing wrong with that) but with Voyager you can throw caution to the wind, cast off your shackles, seek thrills and travel like there's no tomorrow. Let us present you with some options.
How about diving in shark-infested waters off the coast of Fiji? Reliving Robert Falcon Scott's fatal Antarctic expedition or literally jumping from one massive global sculpture to another with the ‘Land Art from Above' thematic tour?
Too extreme? Don't worry. Cultured city-break types can visit a selection of 26 of the world's most memorable museums, take a tour of downtown New York City or casually explore the manicured grounds Curitiba, Brazil.
Too safe and predictable? There' more. You can also take a tour of Hemingway's favourite hangouts. Or wander across the ancient ruins of Pompeii. You can even explore Afghanistan, with Zari, a six- year-old Muppet character. Whatever your style, or wherever your interests lie, with Voyager the world really is your oyster.
VOYAGER IS ONLY PART OF THE UPDATE
One of our favourite functions of the new Google Earth is its ‘I'm feeling Lucky' button. It presents a random new experience that can take you by surprise, show you something unexpected and give you useful knowledge about a place you never even knew existed. There's also a new 3D button that lets you see any place from any angle and share a postcard of the view.
Some places have a 360° video content, or YouTube embedded footage. Others have itineraries that will show you the best spots to visit in places where the choice can be overwhelming, like Tokyo, London and Mexico City.
THE ETHOS BEHIND THE NEW EARTH
Rebecca Moore, Director Google Earth
So, what's the reasoning behind these changes? Well, according to Google, it's their ‘gift to the world'. There's no adverts, no sponsors and no commercialisation whatsoever. They've created this experience simply because they can.
Speaking to The New York Times, The Director of Google Earth, Rebecca Moore outlined the thinking behind the move:
“What you're never going to find in Voyager is, ‘Here's a tour of homes of celebrities'. What we want to do is inspire people to explore the world through this interactive educational experience. We see it as a way to build cultures.”
WHERE TO NEXT?
Now nothing with Google stays still for very long, so what's the plan for their addictive new toy? There are already dozens of virtual trips available, but that's just the start. Google have ambitious plans afoot and a noble goal to boot.
The search engine giant eventually plans to create a set of easy-to-use ‘storytelling tools' that will allow anyone to create tours similar to those in Voyager. The overall objective of Google Earth 2.0? Uniting the world. Rebecca Moore explained:
“This is a time when the world is getting factionalized and we need things to bring us together. We see Google Earth as making the world a smaller place – in a good way.”
That's it, we're hooked and we're planning a holiday. Want to know more? Watch Google's visually stunning announcement video here. Better still, try Voyager out for yourself and renew those long faded ambitions to travel the world.
Planet Earth awaits. Go explore. No excuses.