Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Google Earth 5.0 Updates: Historical Imager, 3D Mars, Oceans and Narration

The newest version of Google Earth is out and includes some really cool tools for educators and those who like to play with all things geographic. My favorite addition is the historical imagery slider that allows users to view landscapes over time. For most areas the historical imager reveals about ten to twenty years of change with picture quality generally declining as older views are retrieved. A tool such as the historical imager could be used in tandem with Google Earth's overlay option to highlight resources such as the Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps, a collection of maps produced from 1884 to 1922 in various parts of the country, including Georgia, for property claims.

Another new feature is the Oceans view that allows users to see thousands of data points including undersea land forms, shipwrecks, ocean expeditions, National Geographic's ocean atlas and a ton of other great options. The inclusion of video and pictures to illustrate life in the ocean makes for a great learning tool. The information presently available is a good start, however, the input of community users and official institutions should lead to some amazing information.

The addition of 3D Mars is interesting but obviously lacks the detail found on Google Earth. I thought the most interesting view to be information and images of various lander and rover missions. Global maps and imagery are also available.

The final item added to Google Earth is the touring feature that allows users to record a narration while leading viewers through some portion of Google Earth. I love the possibilities of the touring feature for everything from class projects to describing your local neighborhood to others. The touring feature is also incredibly easy to use and very intuitive.

The updates to Google Earth, especially the historical imagery tool, remind me of a photo collection link recently sent to me by a friend. The collection includes older photos from the Battle of Stalingrad overlayed on more recent photos of the city. The resulting collages are fascinating and add a new dynamic to past and present. The other photo collections found on the site are equally interesting and focus on Russian subjects.

- Christopher Bishop

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