After spending my entire college career saving money, in January I was able to embark on my dream vacation to Japan, my first time outside of the United States. The trip was amazing—well worth the four years of penny-pinching—and if anything, it just fueled my desire to travel the world even more. With the surprise release of Google Earth VR, seeing the world just got a little bit easier.
fly around cities and landmarks, both big and small
Google Earth VR sounds just like one expects: the ability to travel the world, but from the comfort of your HTC Vive headset. In Google Earth VR, you have the power to fly around cities and monuments big and small, viewing landmarks up close with the click of a button. Or there’s the alternative, zipping around to see banal non-landmarks, like your apartment, or zooming out to space itself for a satellite-view of Earth. But if lonesomely flying over the major cities and beautiful natural landmarks of the world isn’t your thing, Google Earth VR has guided tours for specific monuments too.
Anything’s possible in the mostly-mapped world, even if it gets a little bit rough and grainy sometimes. After all even the non-VR Google Earth isn’t perfect, despite covering 94 percent of the world’s population and 54 percent of the Earth’s land mass. There’s hiccups, and in its VR iteration, the hiccups are still there.
In a lot of ways, Google Earth VR is a natural complement to non-VR Google Earth, and to Google’s own 360-degree Street View app as well. Surprisingly, Google’s massive world-viewer was developed as a mere side project for years before coming to fruition. In an interview with UploadVR,Google Earth VR project manager Mike Podwal echoed the remarkable scale for the side project. “We’ve accidentally been developing one of the ultimate content libraries for VR without even realizing it,” Podwal told the site. And that’s true, cramming the whole world into VR is no small feat. And Tokyo, I can’t wait to see you again.
Google Earth VR is available now for free on the HTC Vive on Steam. Other platforms aren’t confirmed, but are a possibility.