Google Maps

Google Earth is reinvented for new era, with storytelling and AI

The new service includes guided interactive tours with partners including BBC Earth, Nasa and Sesame Street, and much more embedded information taken from Google’s massive knowledge database

PUBLISHED : Friday, 21 April, 2017, 8:00pm
UPDATED : Friday, 21 April, 2017, 8:00pm

Google has launched an updated version of its free Earth mapping service, weaving in storytelling and artificial intelligence, and freeing it from apps.

“This is our gift to the world,” says Google Earth director Rebecca Moore.

“It’s a product that speaks to our deepest values around education and making information available to people.”

A new “Voyager” feature enables people digitally exploring the planet to be guided on interactive stories told by experts, with partners that include BBC Earth, Nasa, Sesame Street, and the Jane Goodall Institute.

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Google artificial intelligence will be put to work for Earth users in the form of “knowledge cards” that let them go deeper into online information about mountains, countries, landmarks or other places being virtually visited.

It will also make suggestions on other locations based on armchair explorers’ previous searches.

“This is the first time we have done this deep integration with the Google Knowledge Graph,” Earth engineering manager Sean Askay says. “Everything Google knows about the world, you can know about the world.”

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There is also a new “Feeling Lucky?” feature for people who want to let the software suggest hidden gems such as Pemba Island off Zanzibar’s Swahili Coast or the Oodaira Hot Spring in Yamagata, Japan.

People can choose to fly around the world, using a 3D button to see the Grand Canyon, chateaux in the Loire Valley and other stunning spots from any angles they wish.

“Because we’re doing a lot of the computing in the cloud, it allows you to have Google Earth right on your phone, so you can literally carry the whole world in your pocket,” Earth product manager says Gopal Shah.

“The new version of Google Earth is really about education, it’s really about immersing yourself in places you haven’t been before to get a little bit of an exposure,” he says.