Berlin: By combining two services, Google has now made it possible to pick points on the globe, look at them from outer space, and then zoom all the way in for a street-level view.
Google has done this by pulling its Street View out of browsers and integrating it with Google Earth. The combination will be available with the new version 6 of Google Earth, reported the company in its blog.
Until now, Earth`s global perspective allowed people to view continents and countries with satellite imagery, while Street View allows detailed views of cities, streets and residential areas. The images for View were obtained by cars that travelled around the world with special round-view cameras mounted on top.
Unlike Street View, which can be accessed via a browser, Google Earth has to be installed as a separate programme. But now, once that`s done, people can head from a virtual outer space view all the way down to the front door of a house. Google says the transition will be seamless.
Of course, Street View isn`t available for every house on Earth. For cities that haven`t been catalogued yet, the new Google Earth can only zoom in to an aerial city view.
The new Google Earth also includes historical maps - a bombed-out post-war London, for example. Additionally, it has integrated 3D models of trees, meaning people touring virtual cities can also check out the foliage and take a walk around it.
Google says it has "dozens" of kinds of trees it can recreate digitally and that more than 80 million of them have already been added to Google Earth. Images from Street View are used to help decide where to put the trees and what kind of trees to install.
The new version of Earth is available for PCs using at least the XP system. Mac users need to have at least the Leopard 10.5.0 operating system installed. It is also available in Linux. The standard version of Earth remains free.
Google has been trying for years to create an ever more detailed image of the world, digitalising the Earth with a combination of satellite images, pictures, geodata, user entries, webcams, municipal documents and more.
But this collection of data for its own ends has put Google in the cross hairs of data privacy experts. The company earns most of its money from online advertising.