In what is being called as the biggest update to Google Earth in the last four years, the new "Timelapse feature" has compiled 24 million satellite photos from the past 37 years "into an interactive 4D experience" to show the "rapid environmental change" the planet has gone through, Google CEO Sundar Pichai tweeted on Thursday.
The new feature enables users to watch the past four decades unfold on their screens.
Mr Pichai uploaded a 37-second video that shows the changes the Columbia Glacier in US state of Alaska has witnessed since 1984.
"Our planet has seen rapid environmental change in the past half-century -- more than any other point in human history. The new Timelapse feature in @GoogleEarth compiles 24 million satellite photos from the past 37 years into an interactive 4D experience (sic)," he tweeted. He also shared a link to a blog post that further explains the feature.
Our planet has seen rapid environmental change in the past half-century -- more than any other point in human history. The new Timelapse feature in @GoogleEarth compiles 24 million satellite photos from the past 37 years into an interactive 4D experience.https://t.co/zDfp7Wn1umpic.twitter.com/wCR7JmIIub— Sundar Pichai (@sundarpichai) April 15, 2021
Giving more details, Rebecca Moore, Director, Google Earth, Earth Engine and Outreach, says, "With the new feature, we have a better and clearer picture of our changing planet."
Google says it worked with experts at Carnegie Mellon University's CREATE Lab to produce the technology. "As we looked at what was happening, five themes emerged: forest change, urban growth, warming temperatures, sources of energy, and our world's fragile beauty," the blog post reads.
How to use Timelapse?
To explore the new feature in Google Earth, visit g.co/Timelapse. Use the search bar to choose any place on earth you want to see time in motion.
One can also open Google Earth and click on the ship's wheel to find Timelapse in the storytelling platform, Voyager, to see interactive guided tours. Besides this, Google has also uploaded over 800 Timelapse videos in both 2D and 3D for public use at g.co/TimelapseVideos. A user can select any clip in a ready-to-use MP4 format or sit back and watch the videos on YouTube.
The purpose of the new technology
Google says its new Timelapse feature is about "zooming out to assess the health and well-being of our only home and is a tool that can educate and inspire action".
The visual evidence on Google Earth, facilitated by Timelapse, could cut to the core of the debate about so many complex environmental issues that otherwise don't get communicated and understood well enough by way of words.
It cites the example of the work of Liza Goldberg, a biospheric researcher at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, and how she plans to use Timelapse imagery to teach climate change.