Google releases Earth 4 final

Mountain View (CA) - Google has released a new version of what is the firm's most prominent applications next to its core search engine. Earth 4 features hundreds of new 3D buildings that were created either by Google employees or by users around the world with Google's SketchUp application.

In a rather rare event, another Google application has made it out of Beta. Earth is now available as a 14.3 MB download and adds more structures in 3D. That applies to enhanced 3D terrain as well as more buildings that grow from a third dimension in your imagination into often realistic illustrations in many locations around the world.

Google uses pixel as well as vector graphics to integrate 3D models into Earth. Realism reaches from stunningly detailed skyscrapers on which you can read the company label to rather rough vector 3D models that more or less give users an idea of the height of a building, but are otherwise reminiscent of graphics in the average mid-90s video game. That, of course, is because even Google's quickly growing workforce probably doesn't have enough resources to rebuild every structure on the globe in software; instead, the company asks its users to submit "super models" of buildings that have been created using Google's SketchUp application. A variation in detail is an obvious result.

You can look through our slide show to see the detail of certain selected 3D objects in Google Earth 4.

Another result of the addition of 3D is an increase in load time of surface data. If activated, "3D Warehouse" data increased the load time of data by up to a factor of five on our computers.