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Travel the Entire World from your Computer - Google Earth

Search ASIA Travel Tips .com 29 June 2005

Want to see if a hotel is as close to the beach as it claims? Have a birds-eye view of the city you are about to visit? Visually see the best route to take on a road trip? Or perhaps see how old neighborhoods have developed since you were last there? Well now, those things and much more are possible thanks to Google's quite incredible new tool - Google Earth.

Google Earth is a satellite imagery-based mapping system, based on Keyhole technology, that combines 3D buildings and terrain with mapping capability and, as if that were not enough to keep you occupied, even Google search.

Available for download free of charge, Google Earth, which is still in Beta, allows users to fly from space to see street level views to find geographic information and explore places around the world, all from the comfort of your own computer.

"Google Earth utilizes broadband streaming technology and 3D graphics, much like a videogame, enabling users to interactively explore the world - either their own neighborhood or the far corners of the globe," said John Hanke, general manager, Keyhole, Google Inc.

The whole world is covered with medium resolution imagery and terrain data. This resolution allows users to see major geographic features and man-made developments such as towns, and to a certain extent individual buildings. Additional high resolution imagery which reveals detailed individual buildings and also detailed road maps is currently available for most major cities in the U.S., U.K., Western Europe and Canada.

Google Earth, is not only a very high-tech, fun and distracting toy, but also an ideal tool for travellers, as the integrated Google Local Search allows users to find local information such as hotels, restaurants, schools, parks, and transportation. Such information will enable users to dive deeper into local communities, whether exploring a holiday destination or researching a new home or apartment. Search results can even be saved for later use.

For users interested in more advanced mapping capabilities, Google is also offering Google Earth Plus for US$20/year, which offers additional features such as GPS compatibility, data import, and annotation. Google Earth Pro, at US$400/year, is for commercial use and offers high-resolution printing and GIS data import capabilities.

While some locations do look a bit blurry, Google Earth already has high resolution imagery (greater than 1 meter) for thousands of cities and plans to increase this number as it moves forward. The potential for such a unique and visually appealing Search Tool is quite simply enormous, and while improvements in certain areas do need to be made, this is one tool we are sure to hear a lot more about as Google continues its development. Google Earth can be downloaded free of charge here.

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