Google Wants You to Share Great Storytelling Using Google Earth

Google's new Tour Builder storytelling project was created for Veterans Day but is now being expanded to all potential users.

Google is making it easy for anyone to tell great stories by adding video, photos and text to Google Maps so that it can all be shared with others.

The new project, called Tour Builder, was inspired by earlier efforts by Google to help U.S. military veterans share their incredible stories using Google Earth in combination with video, images and text, wrote Sean Askay, of the Google Earth Outreach team, and Carrie Laureno, of the Google Creative Lab and Google Veterans Network, in a Nov. 11 post on the Google Lat Long Blog.

"As we've worked with veterans and their family members on projects like Map The Fallen and VetNet, we've heard many amazing stories and seen how helpful storytelling can be," wrote Askay and Laureno. "So we thought it might be useful to make a very simple storytelling tool. One hallway conversation led to a joint project between the Google Creative Lab and Google Earth Outreach, and today, in honor of Veterans Day, we're excited to share Tour Builder—a simple tool for recording and sharing stories on a map."

Tour Builder lets users pick locations on a map; add in photos, text and video; and then share their creation, according to Google. It was originally created to give veterans a way to record all the places that military service has taken them, and preserve their stories and memories as a legacy for their families, according to a Google FAQ. Soon after, the company decided to release it to all users so they can share their own life experiences with others. So far, Tour Builder is in beta, and Google is launching it to get feedback and build a user base.

Users must access Tour Builder using the Google Earth plug-in, which is only available for Windows and Mac OS X 10.6+. Tours that are created can't be viewed on mobile browsers, but they can be accessed on mobile devices using the Google Earth App, which is available for Android, iPhone/iPad and Linux.

So far, a wide variety of users have been experimenting with Tour Builder to tell their own stories. "Though originally inspired by veterans, we quickly realized that Tour Builder has the potential be a simple, useful tool for any aspiring storyteller," wrote Askay and Laureno. "You could be a high school history teacher explaining the geography of the Revolutionary War, a musician updating your fans from the road, or a grandmother who wants to share her family's story of service in WWII."

Users can create their own Tour by naming it, adding an introduction photo and a description, and then choosing a place on a map to begin their story, according to Google. Users can then provide details, add photos and videos, and guide visitors through their stories. Users can also "dive into Street View or pick the perfect 3D view to show off your adventure," wrote Askay and Laureno.

Some of the Tours created so far include Elizabeth O’Herrin's story of service in the Air National Guard from Wisconsin to Afghanistan and back; a story about the veterans of Team Rubicon who deploy emergency response teams following natural disasters like the Haiti earthquake; and Dr. Jane Goodall's multigenerational saga of the chimpanzee "G Family" and how her Institute is protecting endangered chimpanzees with high-tech tools.

Earlier in November, Google added a new Earth Tours feature to the desktop Google Maps services, giving users the ability to take virtual trips through cities and natural wonders around the world in full 3D.