Thursday, January 26, 2012

Google Releases Pretty Earth

Google Releases Pretty Earth:

Google has just this morning released a new, prettier, version of the Earth for Google Earth. The short version is that it now looks much more Earth-like and less like a bunch of satellite and aerial photos patched onto a sphere. And, it really does look MUCH better!

Since Google Earth was first released in 2005, Google has made thousands of changes to their imagery. Changes to how the imagery looks (colors, contrast, lighting) when combined so it has a more pleasant look from space. One of the most frequent comments about Google Earth is "why are these ugly patches of rectangular images on the Earth?". Well, Google has released today a new attempt to address the problem.

Some of the changes Google has attempted to its imagery were not successful. For example when they attempted to cut images that showed away from the coastlines which removed a lot of valuable information. Google later provided access to that valuable imagery in in the historical imagery layer. Or the time they tried changing the colors in a detrimental way, which they quickly removed a few days later.

Today, Google has finally combined many different attempts, and suggestions from the Google Earth user community, and implemented a major change to the imagery that greatly improves the look of Google Earth. The most obvious change is that the "patchwork" of random-looking rectangles of imagery from different sources is no longer obvious. But, Google's new imagery is much more dramatic than is obvious. They have altered nearly all the imagery of the Earth and made major improvements to the contrast, lighting, and consistency of the imagery at all levels. And, they have used features inherent to Google Earth's abilities to transition at different zoom levels to smoothly move between imagery that is very pleasing to the eye.

These changes are subtle if you don't have access to the way things looked before.

Here are some comparison shots showing the dramatic change before and after in just a few places:

GE screenshot US
Before/After USA

GE screenshot US
Before/After Africa

GE screenshot US
Before/After China

As you can see, the improvement is dramatic when you compare the old to the new. But, once most people start using this, they'll probably quickly forget how it used to be and just accept the new look. However, we should really appreciate the huge effort Google has made to pretty up the Earth, and thank them for a job well done!