Google Earth is arguably the best product Google has ever created because it allows anyone to explore our planet (and beyond) with ease. However, you may not know that Google also has an app called Earth View that contains some of the best curated images you can find on the app. Google recently announced that it has updated this collection with over 1,000 new images (for 2,500 in total) and introduced new search tools to find that perfect wallpaper background.
Earth View images are "taken" as screen grabs by virtual photographers who essentially fly around Google Earth looking for cool shots. In order to find potential images from 36 million square miles of satellite shots, the company built a set of tools in collaboration with Germany's Ubilabs. The software also helps them maintain very fine virtual camera control and "optimize the color profile for the particular landscape and export the final image in ultra high resolution," wrote Google Earth product manager Gopal Shah.
So what makes the cut of 2,500 image for Earth View? According to Shah, who originally started the offshoot app as a passion project, it's a combination of patterns, colors and abstraction. "A good Earth View image is not obvious at first, so you look at it and have to ask yourself, 'what is this?'" he said in video that accompanied the launch (below).
As we've noted before, Google Earth images come from a variety of sources, but particularly the very high-resolution Landsat 8 satellites processed with the Earth engine. Google also uses aerial photographs and creates three-dimensional terrain maps using digital elevation data from NASA's Shuttle Radar Topography Mission. Interestingly, Google has copyrighted Google Earth images (allowing non-commercial personal usage), while imaging from similar sources on NASA's Worldwind is in the public domain. That said, Google Earth is a lot more user friendly.
Earth View was first adopted by Android phone users looking for screen wallpapers, and is still an extraordinary resource for that purpose, if you're looking. The web app interface is still pretty rudimentary, but Google has now introduced a color map to let you search by region and your favorite hue.
The Google team noted that the new version lets you go to nearly any place on Earth "with drastically changed improvements in colors and resolution." Shah also noted that Google Earth itself is "not a product like any other Google product, we don't follow a strict rule, we just want people to use it and be inspired by it. So I hope that when people are experiencing Earth View, it just brings a moment of zen to their day."