The company said that Google Earth has been downloaded more than 2 billion times since it debuted in 2006. Now it's bringing the whole experience, which allows people to explore the world via high-resolution satellite imagery, to virtual reality. Google Earth VR will debut on the HTC Vive, but Google said people should "stay tuned for more updates on Google Earth across other platforms next year," so the app is likely to hit other VR HMDs in 2017.
It's interesting that Google Earth VR has debuted on the HTC Vive before heading to Daydream, the VR platform Google introduced earlier this year. The company just released the Daydream View VR HMD, and it would have made sense for it to favor its own hardware with new VR experiences, but the Vive-exclusive Tilt Brush lends some precedence for the company making software for other VR platforms instead of keeping everything all to itself. (Google StreetView is on Daydream, though.)
Google Earth VR will sport features that make it easier to "visit" interesting places. As the company said in its announcement:
Now, at 196.9 million square miles, we know the world is pretty big, so we’ve made it easy to find great places to visit. Earth VR comes with cinematic tours and hand-picked destinations that send you to the Amazon River, the Manhattan skyline, the Grand Canyon, the Swiss Alps, and more.
Google Earth VR is available now from the Steam Store as a free download.
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Nathaniel Mott is a freelance news and features writer for Tom's Hardware US, covering breaking news, security, and the silliest aspects of the tech industry.
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