Google has rolled out a major update to Google Earth with a new feature called Voyager that offers guided tours around the world and more context to the places you visit.
Voyager is Google’s way of helping people go beyond using Earth to search familiar places, such as home and famous landmarks, or resorting to random searches in the hope of finding something interesting.
For Voyager, Google has created dozens of themed tours in partnership with scientists, storytellers, and nonprofits. The Natural Treasures series from BBC Earth offers tours of islands, mountains, jungles, deserts, grasslands, and cities, with different locations accompanied by cards with snippets of information, and BBC Earth footage from YouTube.
The BBC Earth collaboration includes Sir David Attenborough’s Beautiful Birds of Paradise series which showcases extravagant birds in several locations across New Guinea.
Google also teamed up with scientist Jane Goodall for a series on the Gombe National Park in Tanzania, focusing on her chimpanzee research. It’s also launched a Sesame Street Voyager Series called Girl Muppets Around the World, showing off the Sesame Workshop’s work with children from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Brazil, to China and South Africa .
Another Voyager series called This is Home offers a close-up of villages and people from different cultures around the world and even peeks into their homes. So far, it features a reed house from Peru’s Lake Titicaca, a Sherpa home in Nepal, a Bedouin tent in Jordan, and an Illoq in Greenland.
Google has created over 50 stories in the Voyager series and plans to add more each week. The feature can be accessed by a new ship wheel icon.
Earth now also features an “I’m feeling lucky” search option, a new 3D button to see places from multiple vantage points, and a share button. Google has curated about 20,000 locations, each of which comes with new Knowledge Cards that offer a brief history about the place.
The Knowledge Cards also offer a way to navigate major cities, for example, Valencia, Spain, which have multiple cards for famous landmarks and important buildings.
Earth users should also notice improved 3D imagery, which is not captured by satellites but planes equipped with multiple cameras that are positioned to shoot the planet at different angles. The plane zigzags over a location until it has enough images for Google’s computer vision algorithms to stitch together a 3D image.
The updated Google Earth is available on Android and Chrome for the web, and will be coming to iOS soon.
Google’s Earth VR for the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift also got an update with a new search feature that allows users to type in a location.