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Google adds great new feature to Google Earth Pro 7.3.2

by Frank Taylor on Jun.21, 2018, under 3D Models, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, California, Denmark, England, Germany, Google Earth News, Google Earth Tips, Google Sky, Google maps, Hawaii, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Natural Landmarks, Netherlands, Sightseeing, Street Views, USA

Yesterday Google released a new version of Google Earth Pro (for the Desktop version of Google Earth – not mobile) version 7.3.2. I’ve copied the highlights from their announcement post at the Google Earth and Maps forum down below. The new version addresses a number of issues with different platforms and features, but the most significant news is that Google has finally addressed a long-needed feature for manipulating places content in the sidebar. This has probably been the most frequently wanted feature by power users of Google Earth since it was first released. Yes, Google has finally implemented the ability to multi-select places content and drag and drop to different folders, or delete a multi-selected area. See screenshot of dragging and dropping items from one folder to another below:

Drag and drop

You can get the new version now by going to the Google Earth Pro for Desktop download page. Google will be automatically updating users who already have Google Earth Pro installed (if you allowed that during your installation).

It is good to see Google continuing to support Google Earth Pro on the desktop. Especially since the desktop version has far more features and performance capabilities verses the new web and mobile versions which has most of Google’s development focus these days.

Here are the release notes from the post:

What’s New In Google Earth Pro 7.3.2

Changes

Here are highlights of the fixes, changes and improvements we’ve made for this release of Google Earth Pro.

  • Places panel: multiple-item selection, moving, deletion; performance improvements.
  • Network security updates and fixes; improved certificate support.
  • CSV import improvements: support older Mac file formats, multi-line text fields.
  • Ground overlay editor: fix glitchy rotation, rotation handle positioning.
  • Print preview: fixed mouse-wheel zooming, display refresh problems.
  • International languages: fix missing translations, keyboard shortcuts, UI elements.
  • Tables tool: improved stability, layout, data synchronization.
  • Tour Guide is hidden by default, reflecting Earth Pro use case.
  • Windows: allow Earth to run concurrently in multiple user sessions.
  • Windows: improved appearance on high-resolution monitors.
  • Windows 64-bit fixes: joystick support; crash when hiding 3D buildings; COM application (e.g. Garmin BaseCamp) interface.

The announcement post also includes some notes that 32-bit versions of Google Earth will be automatically updated to 64-bit unless you specifically download the version you want on the provided link.

The post Google adds great new feature to Google Earth Pro 7.3.2 appeared first on Google Earth Blog.

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Sad Lack of Visible Progress on Google Earth for Chrome and Mobile One Year Later

by Frank Taylor on Apr.18, 2018, under 3D Models, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, California, Denmark, England, Germany, Google Earth News, Google Earth Tips, Google Sky, Google maps, Hawaii, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Natural Landmarks, Netherlands, Sightseeing, Street Views, USA

A year ago, Google held a fancy venue in a New York museum to announce the next grand release of Google Earth. A complete re-write of the underlying application which finally unified the Google Maps (more current) mapping data with a formerly independent (and aging not-updated) dataset used by Google Earth on the desktop for years. The good news is that the application ran surprisingly well in Chrome and on Android (as mentioned in my review). The bad news, for a lot of veteran fans of Google Earth on the desktop, was that most of the tools most valued (measuring tools, content creation tools, GPS support, and much more), and a great deal of support for Google Earth content, was missing in the first release of the new platform. The focus for the first release was to get basic browsing, and to support the new “Voyager” exploration tools to allow more web-like dynamic content to overlay the geographic content to tell “stories”. I was assured by Google that a lot of effort was going in to incorporate missing power features for the fans of Google Earth. In the meantime, Google assured us they would continue to support the desktop version, and they have indeed (as mentioned here).

For a while after the event, I attempted to calm down the reactions from long-time fans. But, in Google’s attempt to highlight their “accomplishments” with the first release, they downplayed the value of the more powerful and useful version for the desktop on their home page with a single link (still true today) that said “Older version” (they changed that finally to say “Earth Pro for Desktop”). I suggested to them they should give it more prominence, but that didn’t really happen. And, the reality is that after waiting about 5 years for new Google Earth capabilities, the new version was a disappointment to its fans. Eventually, my frustration grew to a point that this blog was essentially stopped after 12 years of almost daily posts. After the wonderful way Google Earth grew in the first 8 years or so after it was launched, and the fantastic support Google gave to its huge growing fan base, it was disheartening to watch how this next phase in development started. I’ve been waiting for a sign that things would get better.

Unfortunately, there has been little sign of improvement to the Google Earth for Chrome/Mobile version as an application. Although, I’m sure they did a lot of behind-the-scenes work tweaking performance and fixing issues as people started using it. The biggest positive visible change I’ve noted was the addition of the new photos layer for the new Earth platform. But, there have been no additions of useful basic geographic tools as promised (rulers, GPS support, etc.). There were also a number of promoted content releases using Earth for Chrome like the Live Bear Cam, stories about the Amazon, and the expected release of the Apple IOS version of the new Earth app in August 2017.

The new photos layer is a sad comparison to the former Panoramio layer which had a vast curated collection of georeferenced photos globally. I used the Panoramio layer extensively to help research places we traveled around the world. But, early this year, the much-loved Panoramio layer in the desktop version of Google Earth Pro was mothballed in favor of this new layer. The old icons of the Panoramio photos can still be seen, but you can’t see the photos. And, it’s clear comparing the new photo icons that there were far more useful Panoramio photos (many locations have photos that the new layer does not). Rumor has it Google was going to incorporate many of the Panoramio photos in the new layer. But, now months later nothing visible has changed there.

Who knows, maybe Google is working hard on new exciting features for the new Chrome/Mobile platform? But, I’m not hearing about it on the ground or in rumors. And, yes, I’ve asked. I still regularly use the desktop version of Google Earth Pro. And, I do like using the web version if for no other reason than the fact it has more accurate map data to overlay on it, and because I’m impressed it runs so well in a browser. Maybe Google has continued to work on a strategy to port to other browsers. Maybe they have made a ton of progress on new features, but they just aren’t far enough along to release any of them.

I have this sense that the release of the new version has only depressed the former popularity of Google Earth only further. This despite Google search trends show it stagnating at most. In part, because nearly all the developers of the formerly more powerful desktop version have left since the development tools are no longer functioning, or have no promise of future support. And, also, because so many long-time fans have also gone missing. Or maybe because my blog is no longer active.

On the bright side, a different team at Google has done amazing work with Google Earth VR. Here is the official Google Earth VR website. It’s the most amazing new version of Google Earth I’ve seen in years. But, it’s use is sadly limited to a very small segment of people who have invested in VR for the desktop PCs (mostly Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, but also a growing list of other headsets will be capable of supporting it). And, a growing number of venues (museums and VR arcades) offer Google Earth VR. Good news is that VR headset prices have come down a lot in the last year, and desktop PCs that support the platform are more common.

Finally, good news is that Google has continued to support the addition of more and better content to view in Google Earth (more Street View, more 3D Cities, etc.). It’s still the largest, most amazing view of the Earth you can get – outside of going places in person. I hold on to a few rays of hope.

The post Sad Lack of Visible Progress on Google Earth for Chrome and Mobile One Year Later appeared first on Google Earth Blog.

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Google Earth Pro 7.3.1 Released

by Frank Taylor on Jan.23, 2018, under 3D Models, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, California, Denmark, England, Germany, Google Earth News, Google Earth Tips, Google Sky, Google maps, Hawaii, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Natural Landmarks, Netherlands, Sightseeing, Street Views, USA

Last night Google released a new version of the desktop version of Google Earth Pro version 7.3.1 (which is free despite the confusing “Pro” name). You can download this at the download page found here: www.google.com/earth/desktop/

This new version 7.3.1 represents some significant work by Google to add “bug fixes, performance and feature improvements, and security upgrades.” – as seen in the announcement post in the Google Earth help forum here.

I am showing the full release notes below, but I want  to explain some things about this version to those of you who might be confused about the different versions of Google Earth out there:

There are two distinct versions of Google Earth currently: Google Earth Pro (for desktop OSes: Windows 7+, Mac OS 10.8+, and Linux) and Google Earth  for Chrome and Mobile (web-based and Android/IOS). The web/mobile version is a new partial re-write of the original Google Earth software, but is much more limited in many ways – in particular because you can’t create content with it for placing on the Earth (read review of its release last April). The desktop version, Google Earth Pro, on the other hand has all the features for creating content derived from the last 13+ years of development on Google Earth, and provides you with a wealth of built-in layers and content, as well as many ways to view content (as documented on this blog since 2005). Eventually, Google says they plan to incorporate more features in the web/mobile version. But, until then, they plan to continue to support the more powerful desktop version of Google Earth Pro. [UPDATE: I should have said “three distinct versions“, because there is also Google Earth VR. But, only a small segment of population have access to high-end VR devices which can run it (Rift, Vive, and the new Windows VR devices).]

Since the web/mobile version is a long way from replacing the desktop version, it is important to thank Google for continuing to support Google Earth Pro. This new version 7.3.1 incorporates a wide range of bug fixes, security and performance enhancements, and even some new features (a condensed list is in the release notes below) for all operating systems supported. The actual fixes are too numerous (and for most too boring) to list, but Google has been listening to feedback on the help forum and fixing those which have the greatest impact. My favorite change happens to be the fix which supports higher refresh displays which run faster than 120Hz. Also, of particular note is support for Windows 64-bit version.

Release notes:

What’s New In Google Earth Pro 7.3.1

Here are a few highlights of the many fixes, changes and improvements we’ve made for this release of Google Earth Pro.

Changes

  • Windows 64-bit: 64-bit application
  • Windows: support for SSL client authentication with secure servers
  • Windows: stability improvements in DirectX mode
  • Linux: added support for printing, embedded video and sounds
  • Performance improvements with large KML files
  • Improved support for secure connections and handling of certificate errors
  • Polygons spanning the antimeridian no longer sometimes disappear
  • CSV import tool user interface fixes and better Unicode support
  • Repair Tool improvements
  • Elevation Profile tool measurements are now more consistent
  • Better translations throughout the user interface
  • GPS device live mode functionality restored
  • Fixed incompatibility with high-refresh-rate displays

Known Issues

  • Windows: upgrading from 32 to 64-bit application resets cache
  • “Tables” tool user interface, stability problems

The post Google Earth Pro 7.3.1 Released appeared first on Google Earth Blog.

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Most Popular Stories About Google Earth 2017

by Frank Taylor on Dec.01, 2017, under 3D Models, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, California, Denmark, England, Germany, Google Earth News, Google Earth Tips, Google Sky, Google maps, Hawaii, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Natural Landmarks, Netherlands, Sightseeing, Street Views, USA

Although this blog has stopped regular blog postings, Google Earth still has a legacy of amazing stories and content. This post summarizes some of the most popular content found by our readers during the year of 2017.

The top 5 most popular posts (from any year) on Google Earth Blog during 2017:

  1. Secret Mars Base Found in Google Maps/Mars – Google’s April Fools joke for 2017.
  2. Google Earth Live – proving that a lot of people think Google Earth has live imagery. This 2012 blog post still is a top find in searches. Read this for why Google Earth imagery isn’t live.
  3. How often is Google Earth imagery updated in the continental US
  4. Maintaining a map of 3D City areas in Google Earth
  5. Google Earth Historical Imagery – This 2009 article is a popular search result about one of GE’s most powerful features. Sadly, historical imagery can only be viewed with the desktop version.

The top 5 most popular posts from 2017:

  1. Secret Mars Base Found in Google Maps/Mars – This one makes this list too.
  2. New Google Earth Web Version Available Now – Announcement of new web version of Google Earth back in April. Read my review for more in-depth impressions.
  3. Google Earth imagery update outlines 2016 – Timothy Whitehead maintained a great archive of all the 3D City locations for Google Earth. Unfortunately, Google stopped supporting features he used to create it, and Google still isn’t providing information about the data themselves. It still is very popular and useful.
  4. New Google Earth version – showing that the desktop version of GE is still very popular.
  5. Wishlist for Google Earth 2017 – Timothy wrote an insightful list of technical wishes for Google to implement for Google Earth in 2017 last January. Unfortunately, Google has done a poor job of granting the wishes with only a couple having been partially met.

The post Most Popular Stories About Google Earth 2017 appeared first on Google Earth Blog.

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This Google Earth Fan Site Ending Daily Blog Posts Starting Today

by Frank Taylor on Jul.31, 2017, under 3D Models, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, California, Denmark, England, Germany, Google Earth News, Google Earth Tips, Google Sky, Google maps, Hawaii, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Natural Landmarks, Netherlands, Sightseeing, Street Views, USA

This is a post I have been reluctant to write. I started this blog 12 years ago to bring news and share enthusiasm about one of the best software applications, and datasets, I have ever seen. Still to this day, I am amazed when I use Google Earth and the incredible wealth of data that Google has shared with everyone for free. I am going to start this post with a short statement and explain what our readers should expect. In a more lengthy background dialogue below, I try to tactfully describe what has lead me to this action. This decision was reached after a few months of consideration.

Announcement

I have decided, after a dozen years of publishing this blog, it is time for me to stop. As a fan, writer, and publisher, I really care about the Google Earth product, and our readers. But as a person, I need to focus my life on other things. It’s possible, if Google produces something really notable, I will write another post or two about amazing things of Google Earth. But, I will not resume daily posts. I plan to continue running the GEB server because many of the thousands of posts are found useful by Google Earth’s millions of world-wide users.

I will be directing readers to communicate with Google’s online help forums to try and obtain answers to questions. For a while, I will try and address some of the many comments and questions we get on the blog. But, those will stop soon. I will continue to respond to long-time GEB readers and friends by E-mail for a while as well.

I want to give special thanks to Mickey Mellen who took over writing this blog from 2009 when I left to sail around the world, and to Timothy Whitehead who took over in late-2014 when Mickey had to focus on other business. They both worked hard to maintain the Google Earth Blog purpose and style, and I greatly appreciate their efforts. We hope the readers of this blog enjoyed what we produced, and the help we gave in E-mails and comments, as much as we enjoyed doing them.

It’s been an amazing 12 years. I hope Google Earth, or superior successors, will continue for a long time to come.

Background Explanation

A lot has changed at Google in the 12 years this blog has been documenting Google Earth’s evolution. Many of those changes were good – the Google Maps and Earth division staff grew significantly, and new features like Panoramio photos, Street View, Google Earth Outreach, Google Mars, Moon, Ocean, and countless other features and layers were added to the product.

But, in recent years, Google Earth development languished. Staff was reduced, and during the last three years all of the top staff who were involved with its original creation have left (John Hanke left Google with Niantic – which created Ingress and Pokemon Go, Brian McClendon left to join Uber, and Michael Jones left to be involved with tech startups and investment groups). I enjoyed greatly working with these guys, and they were very supportive of Google Earth Blog and my efforts to document the enthusiasm of all things Google Earth. They were all peers of mine in the computer graphics and Internet development fields in the decades past. But, there were many concerns when they left.

I tested most versions of Google Earth over the 12 years, and gave many suggestions from both myself, and GEB readers. Google often listened and implemented many of the requests. Fortunately, a little over two years ago an effort to revive development efforts at Google for Google Earth was made, and a next generation version began development with a smaller staff.

Google as a corporation has changed, and, as often happens with publicly traded companies, their priorities with how they manage their products and relations with outside parties has changed. While they still cater to the big online and traditional news sources and pubications, their attention seems to have shifted away from standalone fan sites like GEB. Our blog is not the only fan site that has experienced this. Blogs like Google Maps Mania, for example, changed their focus and became just “Maps Mania” – a multi-product online mapping focused blog instead several years ago.

As Google eliminated most of the software developer hooks into Google Earth, most of the mapping developers have stopped, or greatly reduced, efforts related to Google Earth as a tool. The elimination early this year of support for the Google Earth plugin was the nail in the GE developer coffin – at least for now. The Google Earth Community forums, which once thrived with over a million members, has also dwindled in activity. It was the home of the biggest fans of Google Earth.

The new Chrome-based/and mobile app, version 9 of Google Earth, is the basis of the next generation future from Google. It was released in late April of this year. The new development team, headed by long-time Google Earth developer Sean Askay, has grand plans to implement many of the basic capabilities of the classic pre-version-9 Google Earth applications. As a first release, it shows great promise in terms of graphics performance and its ability to run well in the browser or on a mobile device. But, the web and mobile app version 9 only supports a subset of the Google Earth content, and is missing many of its better features. But, Google has committed to continuing support for the older version while they work on implementing more capabilities in the new generation. They have even recently added some nice tweaks to how the desktop graphics perform on version 7.3 of Google Earth. However, they demoted the better, desktop version, of GE to a link called “older versions” with the release of the first version 9 on the Google Earth official web home page.

In recent months, the new version 9 development team has presumably listened to feedback from GEB and its readers and either implemented, or indicated they will address, some of the requests and suggestions. But, responsiveness and feedback has mostly been slower and more cryptic compared to the past. Much feedback went without reply. In part, I think due to smaller staff, but also I think because Google has changed as a corporation and how it communicates publicly, and even privately, with testers. Their priorities with dealing with the public, and fans of their product, have changed. So much so, that the fun and joy of dealing with Google has disappeared. At least for me.

I realize all too well that many of the people who were die-hard fans of Google Earth 10 years ago, are no longer the fans of the product they once were. Many people have told me they can’t believe I have held on so long. As a long time entrepreneur, former CEO of multiple companies, captain of the seas and air, I am more persistent than most. Believe me, you have no idea. I have tried extremely hard to keep Google supporting Google Earth and its fans over the years.

In a rare occurrence in my life: I give up.

Maybe Google will one day again realize that their fans are important to the longevity of their products.

But, now that I’ve reached this decision, I want to turn my eyes to more optimistic pursuits for myself.

The post This Google Earth Fan Site Ending Daily Blog Posts Starting Today appeared first on Google Earth Blog.

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Performance Tests on New Web Google Earth

by Frank Taylor on Apr.24, 2017, under 3D Models, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, California, Denmark, England, Germany, Google Earth News, Google Earth Tips, Google Sky, Google maps, Hawaii, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Natural Landmarks, Netherlands, Sightseeing, Street Views, USA

The new Google Earth released last week is not yet a replacement for the classic Google Earth (version 7 and earlier). It is an early release of an effort by Google to completely re-write the 12 year old application to make it more current for new platforms the majority of people are utilizing today. Hence, the new GE is a web-based application and a mobile app. They started with a version which focuses on finding and learning about the wealth of information available in Google Earth. The new GE is still missing the majority of the value-added features that serious users of Google Earth rely upon. Google also focused on getting the new version to run well on the new platforms for the first release. This post examines the performance of the graphics update rates as it compares to classic Google Earth as a dedicated desktop application.

My perception at first was that the new web-based Google Earth was not performing as well as classic. Other people have said the same in feedback to this blog. But, my tests have revealed it is technically performing quite well in a web browser. But, there is a problem which causes a perception of slowness. Please excuse me if I get a bit verbose, but hopefully a few of you will find this interesting. Especially Google.

I have been running tests on an old laptop (2011 model), and on a new Windows PC with a brand new graphics card (current top consumer device). What I was interested in was the frames per second rendered of the 3D scene, because low frame rates can result in jerky movements on the screen. Anything less than 30 FPS is very noticeable, and for serious computer graphics users (especially gamers), less than 60 FPS is considered not good. But, ultimately, we wanted to know whether the new web-based GE was performing as well as the classic desktop application.

The good news, for those of you who are not technical, is that the new web-based GE performs very well and performs technically as well as classic GE on both Windows and Mac OS (on my older laptop). On the same 3D views of the same cities, they both tested at pretty much identical top performance once the scene had loaded. My faster desktop ran at full monitor refresh rates (144Hz) once things were loaded. The laptop typically ran at 60Hz or higher despite being almost 6 years old. Interestingly, sometimes a few locations seemed to load the data notably faster with the web version than with classic. But, I think this had to do with some anomalous data I discovered (and reported to Google) for a few locations. I did load the new Google Earth while on a hotel WIFI in New York on Tuesday and I didn’t notice any surprising issue with load times and it seemed comparable between the two versions.

Perceived Slowness

So, technically the new GE runs on a par with classic GE in terms of graphics performance. I was actually surprised by this result, because in the past web applications have run sub-par for graphics compared to dedicated applications. This may indicate Google made the right choice to create its next generation GE as a web application. We have to note though that it is only available to Chrome, so it is not truly a generic web application. Will they be able to make it run as well with other browsers?

Nevertheless, some people who have used classic GE have reported they feel the new one isn’t running as fast. And, I noticed this as well. This has to do with the navigational methods of the new GE (as in moving the scene with your mouse). Not technically the graphics performance. See points below.

Scroll Zooming

For example, if you use the mouse scroll wheel to zoom in, most mouse wheels will have a noticeable “click” for each increment of movement. With classic GE, they animate several frames of movement between each movement for a click of the mouse wheel. This gives a very fluid sense of movement. The new web GE does not do this. It just moves you the entire distance in one jump, which makes it seem you are “skipping” frames to move the same distance. I have already suggested to Google they should fix this and other points below.

Rotating with Mouse

If you hold down the middle mouse button (or hold down the SHIFT key and the left mouse button) you can rotate about a point you have selected with the mouse cursor. This can be a nice way to rotate about a building or a mountain for example. Here, both the web GE and classic GE seem to work similarly. You can still get a jerky behavior if you move your mouse in a jerky way, but if you move you mouse smoothly you get a mostly smooth “animation”.

Animated rotation

If you use the new GE “orbit” feature, Google will do an animated rotation around a point on your screen. This can be done with either the 2D/3D button, or the keyboard shortcut “o”. The first time you hit the button (or shortcut) it tilts to looking straight down (2D like). The next time you hit it, it tilts the view and starts rotating your view (although not the center for some reason). I do wish for a rotation speed control in the settings for this.

Classic GE doesn’t have this feature, but it was the first time I realized the new web GE was higher frame rates because the motion was fluid (high frame rate). Classic GE has a much better feature though. If you click and hold the right mouse button, while pointing at an object, in classic GE you can do a cinematic rotate and zoom in and out by moving right left and forward back. Here Google animates about each point of movement with the mouse and it is very fluid. It is my favorite built-in navigation feature in classic GE. Unfortunately, the new GE does not implement this right mouse button navigation control. Right mouse button on the web GE instead does just a basic zoom in/out feature, and does not animate between inputs so it is not fluid.

SpaceNavigator

As many of you know, the most popular way to fly around classic Google Earth for over 10 years has been a special 3D mouse called SpaceNavigator by 3DConnexion. Serious fans have these, and I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard people complain they can’t use Google Earth without it after they have used one for a while. In fact, recently it’s been a very vocal complaint because the new web GE doesn’t support it. The reason is that classic GE supports this input device and all 3D motions are animated and it lets you pan, tilt, rotate, and zoom all simultaneously for a very cinematic experience. Needless to say, it was one of my first requests for the new GE. Please Google, support it! Your biggest fans will appreciate it.

Loading Times (Added)

As pointed out by @Ryan and @Jacobbs in the comments below, I neglected to mention that loading times on New GE are considerably slower on New GE verses classic. I hope this is due to optimization issues, and not due to issues in the NACL/browser architecture. Google will be able to fix things if it is the former. You can improve speeds a bit if you use the Map Styles to reduce the layers being loaded. But, the 3D imagery/terrain takes several seconds longer to load even on a very fast Internet connection.

Conclusions

So, these are the primary reasons I’ve found that the new web based Google Earth gives a sense of “jerky”, non-animated, motion when you are moving the scene around. The problem is not a performance issue, it is navigational UI implementation issues. But, these problems can be solved. Hopefully, Google will take the feedback and implement more fluid motion in a release you won’t have to download because it is now a web application. I should note that the mobile version of the new GE does move quite fluid. This may have to do with the interface for input from the touch screen being more intimately tied to the web application interface on Android. I expect the same results on IOS when they release an app for it.

Update: Loading times for 3D data and layers are slower (as mentioned above). This also is an issue that hopefully will be addressed in future optimization updates of the New GE.

The post Performance Tests on New Web Google Earth appeared first on Google Earth Blog.

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Google Earth VR Now on Oculus Rift

by Frank Taylor on Apr.18, 2017, under 3D Models, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, California, Denmark, England, Germany, Google Earth News, Google Earth Tips, Google Sky, Google maps, Hawaii, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Natural Landmarks, Netherlands, Sightseeing, Street Views, USA

I was just at the Google Earth press announcement today in New York. In a back room, they had Google Earth VR running on HTC Vive systems. After asking about whether they had a new version, they revealed they had a new version out which now runs on Oculus Rift (with Touch controllers). Google had done something similar where their 3D Paint program Google Tiltbrush ran first on HTC Vive. Then after Touch launched on Oculus Touch, they soon released Tiltbrush on Rift as well.

The new version also adds the ability to search for a place on a keyboard (using an onscreen 3D keyboard). The first version, released last November, was sadly missing this feature.

You can read the Google announcement here.

The post Google Earth VR Now on Oculus Rift appeared first on Google Earth Blog.

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First Review of New Google Earth

by Frank Taylor on Apr.18, 2017, under 3D Models, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, California, Denmark, England, Germany, Google Earth News, Google Earth Tips, Google Sky, Google maps, Hawaii, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Natural Landmarks, Netherlands, Sightseeing, Street Views, USA

New York 3D in New GE

New York 3D in New GE

Google has released a new version of Google Earth today that has been re-designed for a new generation of 3D mapping applications. This first release is not a program you have to download and install on desktop OSes (Windows, Mac, Linux, Chromebook). It is a web application that loads in your browser. Specifically, this will load today only in Chrome browsers. But, this means that platforms like Chromebooks will now be able to run a version of Google Earth for the first time, and support for Linux should be more robust (where Chrome is available – and other specs required). And, there is a mobile app as well (the Chrome version will not work on Chrome for mobile). The mobile app appears to be fully as capable as the Chrome version, but is only available for Android so far. So, Apple users will have to wait until an IOS app becomes available.

The new Google Earth version is only a subset of the legacy Google Earth (let’s call it classic Google Earth – version 7 or lower) in terms of features. But, it has obviously been carefully designed for a beautiful, user-friendly experience that is remarkably consistent between the desktop and mobile. It also looks a lot more like current Google Maps, so it is consistent with new interface design. This version makes it easier to discover new content, and visualize the 3D imagery of cities and other places that Google has been adding the last few years. This seems to be the primary focus of this release. You also have access to Street View imagery (and user-contributed photospheres) and can share links to specific Street Views.

From what we have seen, the speed moving around is comparable to the desktop Classic GE. This is significant as we expected there might be a performance hit compared to a dedicated install application. Google must have worked wonders to make this happen. We will do more analysis in the coming days, but I did some quick checking on frame update rates and it was comparable in performance between the web version to classic GE in tests on my laptop here. The user interface is not quite as fluid on the web as classic GE (more on this in a later post).

Feeling lucky?

There is a cool new feature that lets you push a “dice” icon that is the Google search equivalent of “Feeling lucky?” that randomly flies you to an interesting place on the Earth and provides a knowledge card about that place. The knowledge card can be clicked on to expand and share other relevant data and other places of interest surrounding it. This is a wonderful tool in my opinion as it will encourage people to explore in new ways.

Voyager

The new GE has a ship helm wheel icon that is labeled “Voyager” that is a new way to explore a wealth of content Google has collated for interesting places and things on Earth. They are like a tour of information about a topic which fly you to interesting places relevant to the topic. There appears to be a huge amount of information available.

KML Support Still in Early Stages

The new Google Earth does support KML. However, it is not a complete implementation yet. Google says they plan to implement more KML features in future updates. It also is not as easy to load KML content on the browser version. You have to go to “My Places” and click on a link to import KML you want to load. And, you have to have the file already downloaded. We will be researching what KML features work with the new GE and report on our tests.

Things Missing, Don’t Worry

This release of the new Google Earth is missing most of the creation tools more serious fans of classic GE like to use. All the features from classic to create KML content are basically not available. Also, a long list of important features are missing like measuring distances, historical imagery, time animations, tours, GPS tracking, Flight Simulator, and more. The good news is that classic GE will still be available, so you can continue to use it if you enjoy those features. And, you’ll be able to create KML content with it that can be shared with new GE. Google says future versions of the new GE will implement “many” of the missing features. No promises on all of them of course. At some point, the new GE might meet, and even exceed, the features of classic – and classic will probably stop being supported at that point. One feature they must implement though is support for the 3D mouse called SpaceNavigator. Serious fans of classic GE know this device is the best way to fly through 3D data. I made sure to point this out to Google – but, they already know it because lots of Googlers use it too.

Conclusions

As expected, this new Google Earth will not be a replacement for the classic Google Earth. There are too many powerful features built into GE’s 12 year-old system to implement all at once. But, the new Google Earth does an excellent job of providing a new generation experience for exploring the Earth with a wealth of new ways to experience our beautiful planet. And, it accomplishes the goal of moving the application from a legacy platform of different programs for different OSes (which have to be downloaded and installed) to a web-based model (with the exception of mobile) which can be updated transparently and quickly.

We will be reporting in more detail as we look at things more closely. But, we are impressed with this first release. We hope the public at large will really like the new application and maybe re-discover classic Google Earth’s more powerful features if they want to do more. If all goes well with its popularity, I’m sure Google will work hard to implement more features and capabilities in the new GE.

The post First Review of New Google Earth appeared first on Google Earth Blog.

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New Google Earth Web Version Available Now

by Frank Taylor on Apr.18, 2017, under 3D Models, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, California, Denmark, England, Germany, Google Earth News, Google Earth Tips, Google Sky, Google maps, Hawaii, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Natural Landmarks, Netherlands, Sightseeing, Street Views, USA

Went to check the Google Earth home page ahead of the press announcement this morning. Turns out there is a new home page which announces right at the top “Launch Earth for Chrome” with a big title saying “Gain a new perspective” followed by “Explore the reaches of the world, right in your browser”. Screenshot below:

New Google Earth

New Google Earth

Scrolling down the page and you see there’s a world to explore with a new feature called Voyager. And there’s a new Google Earth for Android version as well.

Back at the top, there is a button that says “Launch Google Earth” which all you have to do (with your Chrome browser only) is go to: Earth.Google.Com/web and you can see the new Google Earth which is out today!

As predicted, it appears today’s announcement is about a web-based version of Google Earth. And, it is WebGL based. In fact, I had a bit of a problem starting it because I have an old Macbook Pro (2011 model). The new version failed to load because it said WebGL wasn’t supported. What I had to do was open “chrome://flags” and select the first option “Override Software Rendering list“, select the “Relaunch” button, and then the new Google Earth version loaded in my browser. Hopefully, the vast majority of folks will either get the Android version, or not run into this issue on newer machines. And, those of you on Chromebooks will be able to open it too!

Upon launching, you get a first-time introductory tour which shows you some features. I checked out New York City (where I am now), and here’s what I got:

New York 3D in New GE

New York 3D in New GE

But, I can easily share this same view with you by simply sharing my URL. This is the same way Google Maps has worked on the desktop browser for a long time.

When you search for something, a little knowledge card appears about that place. If you click on that, the page expands and gives a lot more information about the place and links to related searches with similar information. This new version of Google Earth is very much focused on providing useful information about places.

There’s a lot more to explore and comment on this new version. But, I just wanted to get the word out now. I’ll be attending the press announcement and will report more in a few hours.

The post New Google Earth Web Version Available Now appeared first on Google Earth Blog.

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Attending Press Announcement for New Google Earth

by Frank Taylor on Apr.17, 2017, under 3D Models, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, California, Denmark, England, Germany, Google Earth News, Google Earth Tips, Google Sky, Google maps, Hawaii, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Natural Landmarks, Netherlands, Sightseeing, Street Views, USA

As was mentioned last week by dozens of media outlets, Google sent out press invitations to an event for April 18th to roll out a “brand new Google Earth” experience. I will be attending and will report on this long-awaited event!

New Google Earth

Google didn’t say much in their invitation, and we have yet to receive any press material. But, we believe this announcement will describe a new version of Google Earth that will work on desktop and mobile platforms. Our guess is that there will be a web based version on desktop OSes – most likely with WebGL, which is the predominant standard being used for graphics intensive web apps today. If it is browser based, it means more OS platforms will have access to Google Earth content. We’ll have to wait and see whether the new application will have new features beyond the current Google Earth, or a subset.

Google Earth VR Update?

There may also be announcements about new features/versions of the Google Earth VR application which was released last November for HTC Vive VR platform. There have been no significant updates to that application, and we expect Google is likely to release an Oculus Rift version (since they recently released a Rift Touch version of their Google Tiltbrush VR paint application for the HTC). Or, we may see a version for Google’s Daydream VR platform – although that will be a less-capable version since Daydream VR doesn’t currently support HMD tracking or full 3D controllers.

Other New Content

It’s also possible there will be an unveiling of more Google Earth 3D imagery (aireal imagery converted to 3D data using photogrammetry), and content especially geared towards the new versions. Google has a history of doing this for major updates to Google Earth. There was less 3D imagery added in 2016, but they may have been saving up for this announcement.

As long time fans of Google Earth, we are going to be watching closely to see if this new Google Earth will support popular features from the more than 12 year legacy of Google Earth desktop applications. Keep following Google Earth Blog during, and after, the event for all the latest news and analysis. We have been reporting on Google Earth applications and content for nearly 12 years now.

The post Attending Press Announcement for New Google Earth appeared first on Google Earth Blog.

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