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article imageGoogle to launch all-new Google Earth next week

By James Walker     Apr 13, 2017 in Technology
Google has unexpectedly announced it's building a "brand new" version of Google Earth that will give users "new experiences." After neglecting Earth for several years, Google seems to be substantially reviving it, possibly by emphasising virtual reality.
Google Earth has long been seen as the more powerful, desktop-bound alternative to Google Maps. It features robust exploration tools, the ability to measure distances across the Earth, guided tours around the planet and even a built-in flight simulator.
Recently, Google has opted to concentrate its development onto Maps itself, owing to its cross-platform and cross-device nature. As Maps has grown, it has increasingly overlapped with the aging Earth, leading to it becoming gradually more irrelevant.
There are still lots of users who rely on Earth's powerful functionality though. In a move that will please these people, Google today revealed Earth is far from being dead. It has officially invited the press to the launch event for a new version.
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As reported by The Next Web, Google will host an event "for the unveiling of the new Google Earth" next Tuesday April 18. The date is four days before Earth Day, a detail unlikely to be coincidental. This year's Earth Day campaign is centred on improving environmental literacy, an area it's possible a new Google Earth could assist in.
The invitations give little away about the new program. Google has clearly been hard at work behind the scenes though. It's rare a new software launch gets a dedicated press event and Google usually announces updates to its products in blog posts.
Everything points towards a substantial rethinking of Earth. It's possible Google is planning to relaunch the program with a renewed standalone focus, perhaps orienting it more towards environmental concerns than outright mapping. This would allow Earth to evolve into a distinct app in its own right with a clear purpose distinct from the ever-growing Maps.
Google is also talking about a "brand new experience" for Earth, a phrase which could reveal at least one of the incoming features. It’s likely this alludes to virtual reality support using Google's new Daydream VR platform. A VR-compatible version of Earth is already available on PC gaming platform Steam. Google may now expand Earth's VR features to make them more broadly available on a range of devices.
Although nothing will be confirmed until Tuesday, the new Earth looks set to be focused on educational and explorational use. With Maps now surpassing the current Earth in functionality, the new program is likely to boast features not currently supported in Google products. The company is evidently confident it can bring something new to the table, relaunching Earth with a conspicuously large fanfare.
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