A new experience was launched Oculus Rift owners today with the release of the Google Earth VR app on Oculus Store. The app has been available for HTC Vive for a few months now, but introducing it to the Oculus ecosystem could give usage a big boost. The announcement comes at a time when Google Earth is being revamped in a major way as a web app and a replica for Android on Play Store, something we covered in an another article earlier today.
If you think you’re going to get the same passive experience on Google Earth on Oculus Rift devices as you do on the HTC Vive, think again. The new Touch controllers take the experience to a whole new level of interaction.
Trigger the analog stick on the Touch controller to zoom in on any part of Earth; horizontally rotate the camera with the secondary index trigger; use the Y button on the left controller to open up a menu that’s overlaid on the visuals – like the Terminator or Robocop; save locations by using the X button so you can plan specific trips to those places; use the controller to scroll through and take Tours of famous places – with music to round out the experience.
The controllers bring a unique twist to the VR experience, and the best part is that it is free.
Here’s a showcase video to see what it looks like:
There’s no visibility on when Google might make the new Google Earth available to other browsers or platforms. Right now, you can only run the refreshed web app on Google Chrome browsers, and on Android devices after downloading the new app. No support is currently available on other browsers, or iOS, for that matter. Of course, the older desktop version as well as the iOS app are still available for download, but not the new experience.
One explanation of that is that the new Google Earth web application is still a work in progress, as we explained in our other coverage, and a lot of functions will simply throw a 404 error when clicked. However, it is undeniably a massive undertaking, and it brings a lot of the elements over from Google Maps as well.
Ultimately, we could see a merging of sorts between the two applications, where you can simply choose what mode you want to view the Earth in – plain cartography fashion as Google Maps, or the more experiential Google Earth version.
It’s also likely that Google is developing the new Google Earth with Progressive Web App functionality so you don’t have to download a file onto a memory-starved device. Google being the biggest proponent of PWAs, it’s not a stretch to assume that they will eventually go down that road.
For now, however, we’ll have to be satisfied with the older version of Google Earth VR as it makes its way across the VR ecosystem into new hardware like Gear VR or even Daydream headsets.
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