Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Google Earth 5 beta

It's been a long time since I last used Google Earth. I first discovered it two or three years ago, and loved it. You could go anywhere on Earth, and see all kinds of landscapes. Occasionally I would look for a famous monument, or simply trek through the countryside in some far away country.

Eventually I stopped using it, and uninstalled it. Today I suddenly felt like visiting the beauty of New Zealand (after watching The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King yesterday - it was filmed there), so I downloaded Google Earth again and installed it.

I was impressed with the new features available. Admittedly, I haven't used Google Earth for a while, so some features might not be exactly new. What is definitely new is the ability to explore the ocean floor.

The feature I love most is the Sky feature. It allows you to see the stars and other heavenly bodies visible in the night sky. I've always loved stuff about constellations (Japanese cartoons are full of them, and I'm currently back to watching I Cavalieri dello Zodiaco), zodiac, astronomy, etc.

Another thing I really like is the Mars feature. As if Google Mars wasn't brilliant enough already, you can now fly over the surface of Mars in Google Earth.

Yet another feature that is new to me is the Sun feature. This shows the sunlight and shade on the globe, and you can drag a time slider to actually see the shade moving across the globe.

Finally, this is an old feature, but still worth mentioning. It's always nice that Google Earth lets you view buildings in certain cities in 3D. Being able to see any place on Earth is already great, but seeing tall buildings in all their majesty is a definite plus over seeing them on a flat photo surface, their height being hinted at only by the amount of shadow they cast on their surroundings.

Well, that's it. This wasn't exactly a review of Google Earth; it's more like a 5-minute account of the new features I noticed while quickly revisiting this masterpiece of a program.