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Google Earth’s latest update lets you turn back time on the globe; Here’s how

Google Earth's new Timelapse feature is powered by satellite imagery that brings about 37 years of landscape history to life.

By: Tech Desk | Mumbai |
April 16, 2021 10:24:06 am
Google Earth Timelapse, Google Earth, Earth,Check out how Google Earth Timelapse works and how the tool was made possible. (Image Source: Google)

Google Earth’s newest update, which is its largest since 2017, brings a new feature that allows users to turn back time on the world and see parts of the globe evolve. Depending on your region, the new Timelapse feature lets you go back to up to 37 years in the past.

The feature is made possible thanks to years of satellite imagery that has recorded the shift in Earth’s landscape over the years. This allows users to track deforestation, watch coastlines change over the years and see big metro cities expand over time.

“In the biggest update to Google Earth since 2017, you can now see our planet in an entirely new dimension — time. With Timelapse in Google Earth, 24 million satellite photos from the past 37 years have been compiled into an interactive 4D experience. Now anyone can watch time unfold and witness nearly four decades of planetary change,” Google said in a blog post.

How to explore Timelapse in Google Earth?

Users can explore Google Earth’s Timelapse on their own by going to ‘g.co/Timelapse’ where they can use the search bar to look up a city or other region of their choice. Alternatively, users can also click on the ship’s wheel icon to use Timelapse in a more story-telling format via Google Earth Voyager.

“We’ve also uploaded more than 800 Timelapse videos in both 2D and 3D for public use at g.co/TimelapseVideos. You can select any video you want as a ready-to-use MP4 video or sit back and watch the videos on YouTube,” Google said in the post.

Timelapse will help people understand how the Earth is changing

The shifts seen through Timelapse in various regions, Google noted five themes, including forest change, urban growth, warming temperatures, sources of energy, and the world’s fragile beauty.  Guided tours on the platform help users understand how these elements are affected.

Google is also encouraging people to use and share Timelapse to create awareness on topics like climate change and our carbon footprint. With visual evidence that is much more impactful compared to words in a textbook, Timelapse can be a tool that can “educate and inspire action”.

How was Google Timelapse made possible

In Google’s words, creating a “planet-sized timelapse video” required a significant amount of effort including gathering over 24 million satellite images from as far back as 1984. The quadrillions of pixels across the images took a staggering two million collective processing hours across thousands of machines in Google Cloud.

Compiling the 20 petabytes of satellite imagery into a single “4.4 terapixel-sized video mosaic” also made it the largest video of the planet out there. Google also mentions that the size of the project is also the equivalent of 5,30,000 videos in 4K resolution!

“This work was possible because of the U.S. government and European Union’s commitments to open and accessible data. Not to mention their herculean efforts to launch rockets, rovers, satellites and astronauts into space in the spirit of knowledge and exploration,” Google added.

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