Google Earth gets wet

Google's finally turned its attention to the other two-thirds of the planet. Google Earth 5.0, which debuted yesterday, for the first time ventures beyond the continents to include 3D maps of the oceans, enabling users to explore detailed views of the ocean floors for everything from shipwrecks to marine life.

According to the Official Google Blog announcing the release, the ocean data was acquired via partnerships from several agencies, including National Geographic, the Monterey Bay Aquarium, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, the U.S. Navy, Scripps Oceanography and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Beyond the new ocean imagery, Version 5.0 also offers some cool new features, including:

* Time travel. A new time slider function lets users view a particular location, say Silicon Valley, and how it's changed over the years, "from a farming community to the tech capital of the world."

* Space travel. Using data from NASA, Google Earth 5.0 now lets users explore the terrain of Mars in 3D, using the latest high-resolution images.

* Guided tours. Users can now create shareable, narrated fly-through tours of sites simply by clicking the record button and navigating through a "tour."

The time-slider is especially intriguing to former VP and current climate change evangelist Al Gore, who attended the Google Earth 5.0 launch in San Francisco:

"With the new historical imagery feature, you can look back in time and see for yourself the unprecedented pace of change taking place on the Earth — largely because of human influences," says Gore, in Google press release. "For example, you can watch the melting of the largest glacier in Glacier National Park—the Grinnell Glacier—image by image, for the last decade."

But seeing is believing. Network World Multimedia Editor Jason Meserve put together a quick video detailing all the latest highlights. Check it out.

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