“It suddenly struck me that that tiny pea, pretty and blue, was the Earth. I put up my thumb and shut one eye, and my thumb blotted out the planet Earth. I didn’t feel like a giant. I felt very, very small.” —Neil Armstrong
I just spent half an hour or so in Google Earth VR, which was released today on Steam. I started my trip around the world by locating the house I grew up in. I hovered over Interstate 5 in Skagit County, then zoomed over to my parents’ house in Mount Vernon. I’m pretty sure that was my car in their driveway. I flew back to Seattle, where I found my apartment. And then I was off to Reykjavik, Paris, and Chengdu.
Even when rendered in chunky polygons, the earth looks gorgeous in VR. Navigation was intuitive. It’s amazing to me that there are people alive today who lived in a time when it wasn’t possible to even photograph the earth. Now we can swoop and dive amid a photorealistic simulation of its canyons and skyscrapers, its winding rivers and urban sprawl.
Like the best VR experiences, Google Earth had me imagining again what is possible for the medium. It’s a stunning experience sure to be a landmark in the development of immersive media.