Recently I was contacted by the makers of snoovel.com, a site dedicated to making available guided tours using Google Earth. snoovel has some really cool features allowing people to create and share guided tours. You can watch them on their site, or embed the tours on other web sites. See for example a snoovel tour of the ill-fated Air France Flight 447 .
Allowing you to accompany a Tour playback with multimedia content on the side has some advantages to showing the content in a placemark bubble. But, what I’m really impressed by is the tour creation tool snoovel has created. They call it “Tour Director“. Tour Director is a web-based application which lets you produce a Tour using an interface familiar to anyone who has created movies using movie producing software. With snoovel, you can produce a tour by creating cameras, scenes, and adding multi-media content (including text, hyperlinks, photos, 3D models, and music). I haven’t tried using it, but they have a video demonstration that looks very impressive. This is the kind of Tour creation tool a lot of people have been hoping for I think. Here is a screenshot:
I really like the idea of a graphical timeline to plan out a tour with screenshots of each scene. They also say you can save scenes and use them as components for future tours. You have the ability to control durations for each segment of the tour which makes it much easier to get the desired flow. One thing I found lacking in the playback interface is the ability of the user to control speed of playback. One of the features I like about Google Earth’s Tour playback is the ability to speed up the playback. But, at this point snoovel doesn’t let you do this. snoovel was developed in Germany, but they have an English translated version of the site. The site still has some rough edges, but shows a lot of potential.
This isn’t the first site to offer geo-spatial tours like this using Google Earth. In fact, Magnalox had a touring capability back in 2005 using Google Earth or Maps. But, Magnalox hasn’t yet supported the new Tours functionality. And, EarthSwoop (created by GEB and Google Earth Hacks) also let you do limited tours using the GE plugin with annotated text. And, just a couple weeks ago we saw the introduction of Places, which lets you record Tours and play them back using some fancy camera action.
But, snoovel has the most complete touring functionality I’ve seen so far with support for multi-media and a more sophisticated tour creation tool. Time will tell whether this tool evolves into a popular way to create guided tours. I definitely recommend having a look at snoovel if you’re looking to create more sophisticated GE Tours and don’t have programming skills to develop one by hand.