Google Inc. has launched a new software package that allows you to see satellite images on your desktop.
Google Earth lets you search for locations anywhere on earth and display 3D aerial images of major cities and tourist attractions. Google Earth is in development, but a free beta version is available for home users. Locations can be searched by address, intersections, cities, zip codes or countries and the images can be zoomed in close enough to see streets and buildings.
The images generated are 3D you can rotate the view to see different sides of an object. You can navigate using a mouse or the keyboard, and view selectable layers to display information about local features such as roads, terrain, schools or golf courses.
Images of 38 US cities can be viewed from the ground up allowing you to see 3D representations of buildings and terrain. Measurement functions include distances between two locations, perimeters, radius and area.
Search results can be saved, printed and emailed. Driving directions can be automatically generated and you can trace the route using the Play button located underneath the directions tab.
Google Earth is based on technology from Keyhole Corp., a digital mapping company acquired by Google in 2004. The database that drives Google Earth is based on images from satellite and airplane photographs. The database is said to be multi-terabytes in size.
Google Earth is available in several versions. The free version is for personal use. Google Earth Plus costs $20 and integrates data from your GPS device. Google Earth Pro costs $400 and is designed for businesses who need a research and collaboration tool. Finally, there is Google Earth Enterprise Solutions for on-site deployment of Google Earth.
The technology behind Google Earth is not new, and smaller companies such as GlobeXplorer LLC have been offering 3D aerial views for several years. Google has the marketing clout, however, to bring the technology to the consumer level and integrate it into its advertising programs.
Users can search for local businesses and receive a viewpoint of 10 search results within a specified area. Clicking on a business listing brings up its address, phone number and driving directions.
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by Ross MacIver
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