Google Earth lets users “watch time unfold” with biggest update since 2017
Calling it the “biggest update to Google Earth since 2017”, the company announced on its blog that the new Timelapse feature would make use of 24 million satellite photos that the company had captured over the span of 37 years — nearly four decades.
Google Earth is a useful tool for students, researchers and the average user, offering the ability to look at recent images of almost any region on the earth via satellites. However, while Google has consistently offered access to the service for nearly 20 years since its launch in 2001, it has now received its first major update in nearly four years, now offering users the ability to look at the planet in another dimension of time, via 3D timelapse videos.
Calling it the “biggest update to Google Earth since 2017”, the company announced on its blog that the new Timelapse feature would make use of 24 million satellite photos that the company had captured over the span of 37 years, nearly four decades. Google says the photos have been compiled into “an interactive 4D experience” that will allow users to “watch time unfold” and witness nearly four decades of planetary change. The technology behind Timelapse was created with the help of experts at Carnegie Mellon University's CREATE Lab.
In order to create what the company is calling the largest video of our planet, on the planet, the company had to perform what it calls “pixel crunching” in Earth Engine, the company’s cloud platform for geospatial analysis. With over 24 million satellite images captured between 1984 to 2020, worth quadrillions of pixels – it took the company a whopping two million processing hours to compile 20 petabytes of satellite imagery onto one massive 4.4 terapixel sized video mosaic. To put that into perspective, that’s the equivalent of over 5.30 lakh videos recorded in 4K resolution.
Stressing on the rapid changes to the environment over the past five decades, Rebecca Moore, Google Earth’s Director for Earth Engine and Outreach said that she, like many others had experienced those changes when she was evacuated along with thousands of other Californians during the wildfires last year. Moore also said that the Timelapse feature would give users a clearer picture of the changing planet, including those taking place far away like the melting polar ice caps and receding glaciers.
Users who want to try out the new Timelapse feature on Google Earth can click this link and then type into the search bar to “look at time in motion”. Another method of looking at the new Timelapse videos is by opening up Google Earth and clicking on the ship wheel button to use the company’s Voyager platform for an interactive tour.
Users who don’t want to go through the Google Earth route can simply visit YouTube and look at over 800 Timelapse videos in both 2D and 3D. “From governments and researchers to publishers, teachers and advocates, we’re excited to see how people will use Timelapse in Google Earth to shine a light on our planet,” Moore said in the blog post.