Today Google released a new version of Google Earth – 4.2 (beta) which has two major new features: 1) “Sky” view – which lets you view the night sky from earth providing you with high resolution astronomical observations from a variety of reputable scientific sources; and 2) a new “photo viewer” capability (with support from the new KML 2.2 specification) which let you view photos in a new 3D-like and interactive way.
Google has released a number of resources to help show off the new Sky feature:
- A new web page devoted to the new Sky feature
- A link to more information about the sources of the imagery (which include NASA, the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, and the Digital Sky Survey Consortium),
- a video showing the Sky application in action
- Today’s GE Gallery has six new interesting new tours designed to show off the new capabilities of Sky. I particularly like the one showing the locations of all the new extra-solar planets, and the one showing an animation of a star exploding.
- Also, see the video I created showing the new Sky feature.
There’s also a new overview from Google Earth of the features in Google Earth 4.2.
So far there isn’t a lot of material from Google about the new photo viewer capability. The new photo viewer is essentially a way to view photos in a more 3D view inside the Earth. It’s supported by the new PhotoOverlay feature in a new version 2.2 of the KML file format which is used to exchange information for Google Earth. You can show the photos as they were taken, and then move into the viewer and view the photos up close. See this video which demonstrates the effect in action.
Already, a group that works closely with the Google Earth team called GigaPan has produced an excellent collection of panoramic views which take advantage of the new feature in an innovative fashion. View the Gigapan panoramic views in Google Earth 4.2 (you must have the new version of GE 4.2 installed). According to Randy Sargeant of Gigapan: “Anyone can upload a large panoramic image (50 megapixels minimum), click on ‘Place in Google Earth’, and you can adjust the panorama’s orientation and field of view until it’s correctly placed.”
The techniques for doing this are already published, and people are already busily creating new GE files to show photos with the new technique. Expect to see a wealth of new innovative photo displays in the coming days and weeks.