Google Earth for Chrome & Android gets upgraded with guided tours, more discovery features

As reported earlier this month, Google today has unveiled its new vision for Google Earth, the software that combines satellite imagery, topographic maps and 3D cities, to help you better visualize the planet. The company is now rolling out an update for Google Earth for web and Android, two years in the making, that will introduce features like guided tours, Knowledge cards, as well as Google’s classic “I’m feeling lucky” button for more spontaneous discoveries, and more.

Voyager is Google’s Earth’s showcase of guided tours, which have been created with the help of “some of the world’s leading storytellers, scientists and nonprofits,” Google says in its announcement of the launch.

For example, there’s a tour called Natural Treasures from BBC Earth which takes you to half a dozen habitats around the world, including mountains and jungles, where you can learn about the wildlife. Jane Goodall hosts a tour in the Gombe National Park in Tanzania, where she talks about her team’s chimpanzee research and conservation efforts. Even Sesame Street is participating with its Girl Muppets Around the World tour. NASA is working with Google Earth, too.

The tours themselves encompass other features, like 360-degree videos and Google Maps’ Street View imagery.

Meanwhile, Google Earth’s “I’m Feeling Lucky” button isn’t totally random. Instead Google has curated a database of 20,000 different places around the world that are worth exploring. These could be famous attractions in far-away cities or scenic places of natural beauty, among other things. Once there, you can open up a new “Knowledge Card” that will offer more information and history about the place in question.

While this feature is interesting in and of itself, it could also appeal to those who are looking for travel inspiration and don’t have a set place in mind they’d like to visit. That would give Google Earth a more practical position in Google’s lineup of products – potentially tying it into other travel-related products, like its personalized travel planner, Google Trips, its online trip planning feature on the web, Google Destinations, or its airfare booking tool, Google Flights.

Another new feature is a 3D button that lets you view a place from any angle. You could use this to move around the Grand Canyon to see geological layers, or check out the 500-year-old Château de Chambord in the Loire Valley in France, Google suggests.

The updated Google Earth, which rolls out this week, will now run as a web app in the Google Chrome browser, or on Android. An iOS version is in the works.