For the past ten years, Google has made it possible to traverse and explore our planet using Google Earth. Since debuting a decade ago, Google Earth has racked up over 2 billion downloads, making it possible for people to visit places they may never have an opportunity to see in real life. Well, now Google is upping the ante with a new version of Google Earth designed specifically for virtual reality.
It's called Google Earth VR and it's available to download for free through Steam. As it did with Tilt Brush, a VR painting app that lets users paint in 3D, Google VR is launching to first on the HTC Vive. Since Google points that out, we imagine there will be a version for the Oculus Rift, though for now at least it isn't saying when that might happen.
"Google Earth VR lets you explore the world from totally new perspectives in virtual reality. Stroll the streets of Tokyo, soar over the Grand Canyon, or walk around the Eiffel Tower," Google says. "This virtual reality app lets you see the world’s cities, landmarks, and natural wonders. You can fly over a city, stand at the top of the highest peaks, and even soar into space."
There are cinematic tours and hand picked locations included in Google Earth VR Earth VR. Some of them include the Amazon River, the Manhattan skyline, the Grand Canyon, and the Swiss Alps. Obviously this isn't a substitute for visiting those places in real life, but it's a lot cheaper.
This type of experience also represents what's neat about VR beyond gaming. Just last month, a U.K. resident who is visually impaired got to experience the wonder of sight for the first time while wearing a Vive headset. At this early stage, we've bared scratched the surface of what types of experiences VR, AR (augmented reality), and MR (mixed reality) will make possible.
As to Google Earth VR, head over to Steam to give it a whirl.