Google Earth gets a makeover with new tours and ‘I’m feeling lucky’ option


Google Inc. on Tuesday rolled out a new version of Google Earth that delivers a range of new features to make the service more social and interactive.

The search giant said the new version, two years in the making, is designed to deliver different lenses to allow users to see the world and learn a bit about how it all fits together. It’s also intended to help users to “open your mind with new stories while giving you a new perspective on the locations and experiences you cherish.”

First on the list is the introduction of Voyager, a showcase of interactive guided tours designed with storytellers, scientists and nonprofit organizations. Examples include Natural Treasures from BBC Earth, a journey to six habitats that allow users to learn about wildlife in each and a tour of Gombe National Park in Tanzania that includes famed chimpanzee researcher Jane Goodall talking about her research and conservation efforts.

For those who like to talk a walk on the wild side, Google Earth now includes an “I’m feeling lucky” option that will take them to a random location, although in this case Google has curated 20,000 different places so you don’t end up in somewhere not so exciting, like the middle of a cornfield in flyover country. In testing, options delivered included a ski resort in Morzine, France, and Corcovado Mountain in Brazil, home of Rio de Janeiro’s Christ the Redeemer statue, also rendered in 3D. Destinations also include a knowledge card that provides basic information about the location visited.

3D is also more highly featured in the new version of Google Earth, with a new button allowing users to see any place in 3D, though the results are only impressive when Google has rendered the location you are visiting in 3D to begin with.

Released by Google in 2005 based on technology acquired from Keyhole Inc., Google Earth has always been an impressive offering, and while the new version primarily updates ways to interact with the platform rather than the provide additional material, it’s still a welcome step forward.

The new version is available on the web via Google Chrome, Google Earth 7 for Desktop and the Google Earth Android plugin starting today, with support for iOS and other browsers promised in the near future.

Image: Google