New York, New York
Maybe it’s old news for some, but I’ve just gotten the chance to play with Google Earth
this holiday weekend, and all I can say is… “WOW!” I’m simply amazed by this program!
If you haven’t already, run to this site and download Google Earth! This is an incredible piece of commercial software originally developed by a company called Keyhole, now purchaced by Google and made available as a free download. It uses satellite imaging and 3D data to render a virtual earth that you can explore from overhead.
WARNING: If you’re a person with an inquisitive mind, be prepared for your productivity to take a nosedive! This earth simulator is very addictive for explorer types; you can easily fritter away hours in virtual flight over the world.
Be sure to toggle the buildings feature on, to see large city skylines in three dimensions. (US cities only). Here I was flying above Los Angeles amid the spaghetti maze of freeways and skyscrapers downtown.
You’ll need a PC (sorry Mac users) and a fairly decent graphics card capable of basic 3D rendering. Most PCs from the past few years should fit the bill.
Zoom from space to the ground and focus on details with astonishing clarity. Not all of the world is shown in the highest-res detail, but there’s enough of it to keep you exploring.
Some things of note: in the application options (under tools), set the level of elevation exaggeration to 2 or 3 for the most 3D effect. If you have a fairly modern system with a good graphics card, set all the levels of detail and distance to their highest. Under the cache tab, increase the amounts of disk and memory as your system allows.
Once you’re set up, kick back and enjoy exploring the globe. You can use the navigation controls to tilt the view plane, fly over any location, zoom in and out etc. to your heart’s content.
The names of cities and towns pop up as you near them. In North America, you can toggle street names on, taking the guess work out of figuring out where you are. You can toggle all manner of borders on and off to help you identify cities, counties, states, countries, land masses, bodies of water, etc.
There are a host of tools that make this application quite useful. The measurement tools let you visually calculate distance between points on the globe. You can toggle markers for schools, hospitals, nightclubs, gas stations, banks, etc. There are also user-created markers from the Keyhole community that pinpoint various sights all over the globe.
Simply type an address or point of interest into the search window and sit back as the program ‘flys’ you there. If you don’t know where to start, simply take the guided world tour to get you up to speed.