Google Adds Search Function, Oculus Support To Google Earth VR

Google added support for Oculus Touch controllers to the popular Google Earth VR application. The company also added a search function so you don't need to be a geography whiz to find your favorite vacation spot on the map.

Google Earth VR debuted in November 2016, and it quickly became one of the most beloved things to do in VR. But sadly, you had to own an HTC Vive to enjoy the experience. The initial release didn’t support the Oculus Rift because it required motion controllers and, at that point, Touch wasn’t available yet. Google took an extra half-year to add support for the Touch controllers, but the day is finally here. 

In addition to including Rift and Touch support, Google added a search feature to Google Earth VR. The first iteration of Google Earth VR didn’t include a way to search for specific locations. Google set the app up to make it simple to find new places that you didn’t know exist, but short of a manual search of the globe, you couldn’t pinpoint a specific location. If you wanted to find a spot you visited on vacation in the past, you had to hope you knew where it was located on the map. Now, you can simply type in the name of where you want to go, and Google Earth VR will take you to that destination. Of course, you can still explore unknown locations by pointing at a spot on the globe and zooming in, if you want.

The new version of Google Earth VR also includes an updated caching system, which lets you select a customized region to keep pre-loaded so you can explore it without having to wait for images to load. The original version had predetermined locations and sizes; the new version lets you define both  parameters. Google said it improved caching performance, too. 

The company also took the time to highlight 27 locations to “help you discover the world’s most incredible places” and create a new introductory tour. Google’s featured locations include the Perito Moreno Glacier in Argentina, the top of Table Mountain in South Africa, and the German castle that inspired the castle in Disney’s Sleeping Beauty.

Google Earth VR is a free application which you can download from Steam. With the added support for Oculus Touch, Google also released the app on the Oculus Store.

 Kevin Carbotte is a contributing writer for Tom's Hardware who primarily covers VR and AR hardware. He has been writing for us for more than four years.