Google Earth has added another 100,000 virtual tour sites around the world to its listings, building on a provocative "virtual tour" feature that launched in October 2012 as part of the latest Google Earth 7 release.
"Today, we're launching a major update to the popular tour guide feature in Google Earth for desktop, iOS and Android," according to a Jan. 29 post on the Google Earth page on Google+. "As you navigate in Earth, tour guide acts as a local exploration expert suggesting interesting places near the location you're visiting. Today's update adds over 100,000 new tours of popular sites, cities and places across 200 countries, as well as enhancements to existing tours."
For users, it's an impressive and cool development that offers more than a million photos of notable and not-so-notable places, right from their armchair, park bench or local coffee shop.
"The new, richer tours combine 3D flyovers, Wikipedia snippets and—for the first time—place highlight and more than one million user-generated Panoramio photos in order to create an immersive and educational exploration of your favorite places," according to the post. "Each tour ends with a selection of photo thumbnails which were selected from Panoramio as the best representation of a given place."
Google in 2007 bought Panoramio, a community-powered Website that links photographs on a map to the exact geographical location where they were taken. The images on Panoramio do not usually include people, but mostly illustrate interesting and even mundane sites, places and scenes around the globe. Users can click on one of the thumbnails to see more information about an image and its location.
The tour guide feature, which offers a user guide, is viewable using the desktop, iOS or Android mobile versions of Google Earth 7.0, according to Google.
Tour guides debuted on Google Earth in June 2012 when Google unveiled its Google Earth for Mobile services. The first tours included 11,000 popular sites around the world. By last October, the tour guides were expanded to the Google Earth desktop version.
Google has made other recent improvements to its Google Maps, Google Earth and Google Street View content for users.
In October 2012, Google made Google Maps more useful to consumers by adding information about terrain, vegetation and more, while also greatly expanding its Street View image collection with intriguing images of the Grand Canyon and its beauty.
Google Maps also added 25 million building footprint images to its map collection in 2012, giving users more information and details about structures they are trying to locate.
Also in October, Google updated the Street View images that can be seen in Google Maps along more than 250,000 miles of roads around the world, while also doubling the size of its Street View image collection overall. It was the largest one-time Street View image update ever by the company.
Those new image collections now include detailed photographs of places such as Catherine Palace and Ferapontov Monastery in Russia; the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall and Taroko Gorge in Taiwan; Stanley Park in Vancouver, Canada; and Singapore's urban jungle, Fort Canning Park.
In September 2012, Street View added its first-ever underwater panoramic images, bringing in colorful and beautiful photographs of underwater reefs in Australia, Hawaii and the Philippines. The images came from the Caitlin Seaview Survey, which is conducting scientific expeditions to explore and map the world's coral reefs.
Also added in September were Street View images for more than 150 colleges and universities around the world, giving online users "you are there" glimpses into more institutions of higher learning in the United States, Japan, Europe and elsewhere. Included in the schools update were UCLA, Pembroke College in the U.K., McGill University in Canada, University of California-Davis, Amherst College, Bowdoin College, Emory University, Florida Atlantic University, Loyola Marymount University, Stetson University, University of Notre Dame and Washington State University.
In August 2012, Google Street View expanded its library by adding images of the remote and beautiful Canadian Arctic hamlet of Cambridge Bay, as well as detailed 360-degree images of retired spacecraft, launching facilities and other notable scenes at NASA's Kennedy Space Center on the Florida coast. Powerful new Street View images tracking the rebuilding of New Orleans following the devastation of 2005's Hurricane Katrina also debuted.