WARNING: If you are prone to motion sickness – especially air sickness – you might not want to watch the following Google Earth tour!
This wasn’t the intention, but several people who have seen the tour have been a little queasy afterwards. The file is yet another demonstration of the capabilities of the new Record Tour feature in Google Earth 5. One of the engineers at Google behind the development of the KML standard and the open source libkml is Michael Ashbridge. He took one of the first GPS tracks of a hang glider (or paraglider) which was converted to a KML file (back in 2005) and wrote an application to convert the track into a GE 5 tour which lets you follow the glider as it catches thermals to gain altitude near some mountains in Idaho. Before I say more, just go check out the tour in Google Earth 5. Once it loads, double click “Linestring Tour“.
Michael’s program produced the tour by following the GPS track and shows you the 3D view along the “string”. It’s a really cool experience (if you don’t get sick!). GPS data is typically a bit inaccurate in altitude and only updated periodically (maybe once per second). But, the Tour function in GE 5 does a good job of interpolating between points to smooth the transitions. Even so, the ride gets a bit bumpy in places. The tour really gets interesting if you use the “Fast Forward” buttons on the Tour slider in the lower left.
While the tour is playing, if you grab areas with land with the mouse, you can drag your view to look in a different direction. After you let go with the mouse, the view will move back to following the track. This is a great feature which makes tours even more powerful because it takes a Tour from just being like a recorded video into a live 3D Google Earth recorded experience. But, there is a “bug” which doesn’t let you grab the sky to change your view (which will hopefully be fixed when GE 5 goes out of beta).