Google Earth gets a boost in high-res image data

Mountain View (CA) - Just in time for its first birthday, Google released an updated version of its Google Earth satellite imagery application. The company says that more than 20 percent of the landmass of the entire globe is now covered with high-resolution satellite imagery, allowing about one third of the world's population to see their homes in detail.

Google Earth 4 is a solid update over version 3, with imaging data the most visible upgrade, but just one part in a whole series of news. For example, there are new, more intuitive control buttons, a localized interface in French, Italian, German and Spanish as well as Linux and Mac OS X versions of the software that are available simultaneously with the x86 PC software.

The buttons to control viewing angles and zoom have been moved from the menu bar to the top right corner of the satellite image and appear through a mouse-over effect. Users familiar with the original navigation will need a few minutes to get used to the new controls, but may appreciate the greater flexibility of the new controls.

Google claims that about 20% of the world's landmass is now covered with high-resolution imagery, about four times as much as in the previous version of Google Earth. The firm said that about two billion houses in 200 hundred countries can be seen in high-resolution. As before, there are several grades of high-resolution. Somehow, our eyes still tell us that Google's headquarter is an indication about the maximum resolution offered by the software. You will see similar levels of resolution in most US metropolitan areas, but a clear degradation for example in many European, African in Asian cities.

According to the Google Blog, Google Earth initially "had medium resolution global satellite coverage [of] 15 meters per pixel." The new version has arrived at about 70 cm per pixel (about 27" per pixel) and Google claims that it has "even better data for many countries, up to 10 cm per pixel."

Google recommends for Earth 4 substantially more PC horsepower for any of the software's predecessors. System recommendations include a 2.4 GHz Intel processor (or equivalent), 512 MB system memory, 2 GB hard drive space, a graphics card with at least 32 MB of memory as well as a broadband connection with a 768 kb/s downlink.

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