Just a month ago, PlanetInAction.com released a really cool Google Earth game called “Ships” – a simulator game for ships completely run with the Google Earth API in the browser plugin (read the GEB review). One of the features I was particularly impressed with was the really innovative camera modes of the simulator.
Now the author of Ships, Paul van Dinther, has just released another cool free application he calls “Places“. This application leverages some of his work with cameras to produce the “next generation postcard”. Instead of a static postcard photo, how about sending a dynamic 3D postcard using Google Earth? This goes way beyond just sending a placemark, and it leverages new GE technology.
Once you pick a place, you can do more than just send it along with a greeting. You can also record a flying tour of the location. Paul has created a custom “helicopter”-like camera and interface using the mouse and keyboard shortcuts that has to be tried to really appreciate. He has a drop down help card that will explain the shortcuts. You can get cinematic like motions to fly around. Not only that, but you can record your flying tour as a GE 5 Tour – the end result is a simple URL you can send someone to see your movie postcard. This is very cool! Watch a video introduction to Places:
You can also check out a couple of example postcard movies here: Grand Canyon and Mt. St. Helens
The interface has this handy gadget in the upper right that lets you expand the plugin to full “screen” view in your browser. This makes the experience much more immersive. You can easily back out by hitting the ESC key. Google should offer this “full-screen” gadget mode as a standard option for GE plugin apps.
I highly recommend trying out the custom camera/flying interface, and the easy way to generate a movie/Tour with the GE plugin. The flying tool is one of the best interfaces for flying in Google Earth I’ve seen to date. You could make some cool movies with this. I’ve already asked Paul, and he says he might be willing to create a custom Google Earth movie camera tool. If you think this would be a cool idea, you should leave him a comment.