How Google captures the whole world in 3D
The new Google Earth, launched in mid-April, is gorgeous. In intricate 3D, it can dive into Hawaii's volcanoes and circle Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world. It comes with stories too, from outlets like Sesame Street and the BBC, and an "I'm feeling lucky" option. It's almost as good as taking a vacation. Almost.
Nat and Friends, which digs into Google technology, made an explainer for how Google Earth becomes the behemoth of topographical information available to all users, and it's a huge undertaking. Satellites collect 2D imagery, which is laid around the globe like an orange peel. The 3D imagery, however, is gathered via airplane, similar to how Google Street View cars grab photos from the ground. The images are overlapped, pieced together to show depth, and covered with texture.
Google Earth is apparently composed of tens of millions of images, which Google tries to update once a year. Those updates show deforestation and development in action, as well as the loss of coastal lands along oceans and changing ice patterns to the north. They can also spot shipwreck graveyards, which is cool.