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Google Earth’s ‘largest update’ in over three years lets you turn back time

A still image of the Columbia Glacier in Alaska as part of a new time-lapse video feature coming out as part of the biggest update to the Google Earth app in five years.  (AP)Premium
A still image of the Columbia Glacier in Alaska as part of a new time-lapse video feature coming out as part of the biggest update to the Google Earth app in five years. (AP)

  • Google Earth's Timelapse feature, which covers the years 1984 to 2018 so far, has been brought up to 2020 now. The company also said it will be updating it each year for the next decade
  • Timelapse allows users to turn back time and track important changes around the world.

NEW DELHI: In the “largest update" to Google Earth since 2017, Google added to its Timelapse feature on the platform. While Timelapse has existed separately for years now, the company is integrating it directly into Google Earth now.

There are also five thematic stories created in the Voyager feature of Google Earth, which will give users guided tours on forest change, urban growth, warming temperatures, and mining and renewable energy sources. Also, Timelapse covered the years 1984 to 2018 so far, but Google has brought it up to 2020 now. The company also said it will be updating it each year for the next decade.

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The feature allows users to turn back time and track important changes around the world. It could be useful for journalists, scientists and researchers, who can use data on depletion of forests, global warming and other climate-related changes around the world.

“Timelapse in Google Earth 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 company said in a blog post.

The update includes imagery from the past 37 years, allowing users to track changes between 1984 to 2020. The company says it used 24 million satellite photos over the past 37 years to create the feature. The company said it will update Timelapse annually with new images over the next decade.

“It took more than two million processing hours across thousands of machines in Google Cloud to compile 20 petabytes of satellite imagery into a single 4.4 terapixel-sized video mosaic—that’s the equivalent of 530,000 videos in 4K resolution," post said.

The feature is available on mobile phones, tablets and desktop computers. It can be accessed through the ship’s wheel icon on Google Earth. The company has also uploaded 800 Timelapse videos in both 2D and 3D for public use. The videos can be viewed on YouTube or used in MP4 format.

According to a 2019 blog post about Timelapse, Google uses images from NASA, the US Geological Survey’s Landsat, and the European Copernicus programs with its Sentinel satellites. The company also works with the American Carnegie Mellon University’s CREATE Lab, which offers a technology called Time Machine. The interface for Timelapse is contributed to Time Machine’s open-source project as well.

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