Google, always at the forefront of technological innovation, has just this week released their newest version of Google Earth (via TechCrunch): Google Earth 5.2. You can view a demo of the technology here at YouTube, but the short version is: it’s awesome, especially for cyclists and hikers.
Recently Google developed a Google Maps for Cyclists. This feature was helpful for people such as myself who are without automobile, and are wary of traveling on roads with narrow shoulders and 18-wheelers passing at fifty-five miles per hour. It works great in co-operation with the user-generated bikely website, which hosts great directions for touring and randonneuring cyclists. But with this new version of Google Earth, not only can you map your cycling routes, but you can also calculate elevation profiles, sync your mobile GPS system, and you can even play back your trip and see where you’ve gone. Veloroutes.org uses Google Maps to provide the elevation services, but doesn’t do much else. You need nothing but Google Earth, and if it’s simplicity and technological hegemony you’re seeking Google provides that.
There is also Google Earth Pro, the edition you have to pay for, which provides other features otherwise not provided by 5.2. For hikers, either edition works just as well. In addition to mapping elevation and projected speed, you can also see animated versions of your trek, which might aide in predicting obstacles, resting places, viewpoints, and other such features wildlife fanatics usually only discover by accident, or through extensive trial-and-error.
As technology becomes more advanced, the idea is that it becomes more simple and unified. Google Earth also provides integrated web-browsing, doing away with the need to flip between tabs, windows, or devices.