It's interesting to see Google embracing "stories." The short-form mobile storytelling format has become commonplace since Instagram pinched it from Snapchat. It also conjures images of horrifying face-swap selfies and people donning virtual dog masks -- which doesn't seem appropriate for Google Earth now, does it? It does seem likely, however, that any future updates will be part of Google Earth's "Voyager" feature. Launched in April, Voyager already boasts VR tours, city guides, and live-streams.
According to Google, the planet visualization tool will be better suited to more outdoorsy material. "The story of your family history, the story of your favorite hiking trip – it could be anything. It doesn't have to be profound," Google Earth Director Rebecca Moore told Reuters. Staying with the social media aspect, virtual maps that let you tune into global broadcasts are also integral to Twitter's Periscope, Facebook Live, and Snapchat.
To give you a taster of what "stories" will look like, Google Earth is launching the "I Am Amazon" series on Voyager. Spread across 11 sites, the interactive project documents the relationship between the rainforest and its people. The stories are told using a mixture of video, text, and 360-degree VR. No one expects user uploads to match this kind of production value, and many of them will look amateurish at best -- but that's part of the charm.