Google Earth version 6 was released Monday giving new meaning to up close and personal. The upgrade adds integrated Street Views into Google Earth along with a new emphasis on trees. More than 50 species of trees have been added to Google Earth's 3D models of places.
Also with this latest version of Earth, Google has added a new character to the software's repertoire, Pegman. Similar to the way Google Maps works, when looking at an aerial view of a location, areas with Street Views available are outlined in blue on the map. You can drag Pegman to any blue area and you'll be immediately taken to a street level view of that location. Better yet, you can "walk" down streets by using the scroll wheel on a mouse or the cursor keys on a keyboard.
While in Street View, you can toggle to 3D view, which gives you a ground level view with 3D graphics buildings and now, 3D trees, too. "In Google Earth, while we and our users have been busy populating the globe with many thousands of 3D building models, trees have been rather hard to come by," Google Product Manager Peter Birch explained today in the company's Lat Long Blog. "All that is changing with Google Earth 6, which includes beautifully detailed, 3D models for dozens of species of trees, from the Japanese Maple to the East African Cordia to my personal favorite, the cacao tree."
With 3D trees you can see tree species in places like parks, neighborhoods and forests. Some 80 million trees have been "planted" so far by Google Earth in places like
San Francisco, Tokyo, Athens and Chicago, as well as the Surui Forest in South America and Kahigaini, Kenya.
Google has also added a time machine of sorts to the new version of Earth. If you view an area where historical imagery of it is available, the date of the oldest imagery will appear in the status bar at the bottom of the screen. Click on that date and you'll be transported back in time to see imagery about that place at that time.
Whether you're using the desktop version of Google Earth or its browser plug-in, the new features add a personal dimension to viewing places both familiar and far away that's the next best thing to being there.