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Google Earth 5.0

February 3rd, 2009

Latest version of Google Earth, 5.0 is now out. This is a massive ugrade to Google Earth, which takes the application forwards in lots of new ways. For sheer scope and range of new features easily the biggest update yet.

Headline features are Historic satellite images, 3D Ocean terrain, Google Mars!, and powerful new touring capability

Download the new version from the official download site here: Google Earth 5.0

A few observations:

  • Historical Imagery - For me the single most impressive and unexpected addition is the ability to see historic aerial and satellite imagery. Including stuff going back to the 1940s! Previously Google Earth only allowed the display of one image of any place taken at one particular time. Most other new features were predicted in one way or anther - this came out of the blue. Really excited about this. Must be costing Google a packet to acquire all this data.
  • Ocean - Displays 3d underwater terrain (bathymetry), with a neat wave effect for the ocean surface. Less excited by the possiblities of this than other people seem to be, but admittedly does look cool.
  • Mars - A complete 3D terrain model. Very impressive. Pretty much every conceivable layer provided - different types of imagery, space probe landing sites etc. The Mars rover tracks look ripe for time animation!
  • Touring - Provides the ability to record and play back tours. Especially like the fact recorded tours are stored as kml files. Makes it possible to share them, automatically generate them through scripts - e.g. as a black box recording from a flight simulator, and in future (hopefully) play them in the browser plugin.

Some User interface changes:

  • Time slider has some new features - zoom buttons which change the playback length between a minute, hour, day, week, month, year. Further options to set start and end times
  • Overview map - new location bottom left of screen, some options to change the size and zoom ratio.
  • The Ruler displays a compass heading in addition to distance.
  • Placemarks bounce when the mouse hovers over them.

Couple of niggles - might be due to my PC, internet connection or maybe just the number of people trying to use the application.

  • The new version took a very, very long time to install.
  • Imagery is being pulled in very slowly at times

Development Stuff

The KML changes are listed in the KML Reference. And a post on the devlopers blog here.

Some very tight control of touring is possible through the new kml extensions. Ability to set the satellite imagery date and sun position time in a lookAt or camera view. Hopefully this new provision for UI control will eventually be extended to things like toggling off individual 3d buildings in the layers.

On a side note, none of these new dev features have been rolled out in the Google Earth plugin yet. But a couple of the changes in GE 5 were effectively already in the browser version - the Javascript/CSS support in balloons, and the clickability of polygons and lines.

Related posts:

  1. Google Earth Imagery Updates
  2. Martian System in Google Earth
  3. Tours and 3D animation

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