Google Earth™ is a mapping program created by a Google company called Keyhole, Inc. It was originally called Earth Viewer when it was released in 2001, but upon its re-release in 2005, the name was changed to Google Earth™. The program utilizes satellite imagery and aerial photography to create a 3D map that allows viewers to see buildings, terrain, and geographical landmarks in distant cities.
Users of Google Earth™ may travel around the world, zooming in on interesting features and exploring virtually any area on Earth. There are currently two versions of Google Earth™. One is a free version available to all, but more advanced users can purchase Google Earth Pro™ which currently retails at $400 US Dollars. The pro version is ideal for large companies who wish to utilize the collaboration tools, but the free version offers plenty of features for most users.
The newest version, Earth 5.0, is only available in beta form at this time, but it has incredible educational features. It allows viewers to select an area and see decades of historic change, such as urban sprawl and the melting of ice caps as if watching a movie in fast forward. A new ocean layer is also included and lovers of the sea can dive to the bottom of the ocean to explore aquatic life. Another popular feature is the sharing capability. Google Earth™ allows users to create tours of favorite places which can be recorded, narrated, and sent to friends.
Users can select locations by address, coordinates, or simply using the mouse to explore, drag, and click interesting areas. With several zoom levels, viewers may see the layout of a city from an aerial view or zoom down to street level. There is even a 3D tilt feature for viewing buildings from different angles. A flight simulator feature allows Google Earth™ users to gain the view of a pilot as they fly from country to country.
Not every city or country is available in 3D, but contributors continue to add information and Google Earth™ is fast becoming an aid as not just an exploratory novelty, but as a tool for mapping directions and learning about different regions. As the popularity increases, so does the access to information for all and the learning possibilities are endless. The latest version of Google Earth™ even added a separate globe for Mars, and outer space explorers now have access to high resolution images of martian terrain.