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Google Maps charts 3D Earth view

An update to Google Maps enables users to view 3D images of Stonehenge, the Lake District and other places using Google Earth within their browser
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By Martin Gaston on
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1 of 5 Martin Gaston/ZDNet

Google on Monday incorporated Google Earth into Google Maps, bringing a 3D perspective to a map when used with a supported browser.

"Earth view offers a true three-dimensional perspective, which lets you experience mountains in full detail, 3D buildings and first-person dives beneath the ocean. The motion is fluid, and you can see the world from any viewpoint," wrote Google product manager Peter Birch on Google's Lat Long blog.

The move comes five years after the launch of Google Earth as a stand-alone application, and two years after the Google Earth browser plug-in was released.

To see Earth view in Google Maps, users must have the Google Earth browser plug-in installed on their desktops, the company said in a blog post.

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2 of 5 Martin Gaston/ZDNet

An 'Earth' button is shown in Google Maps after the Google Earth plug-in is downloaded to the desktop. The plug-in supports the Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Flock and Safari web browsers.

The plug-in allows people to look at buildings in the round, to get angled views of the terrain, and to pan and zoom into the 3D view.

Google Earth is effective for showing contoured landscapes, such as mountain ranges like the Lake District (pictured). The company has provided 36 places such as the Taj Mahal and Table Mountain for people to explore.

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3 of 5 Martin Gaston/ZDNet

In certain urban areas with plenty of tall buildings, such as New York (pictured), the 3D view can be seen from a low level.

The images can be navigated by using the on-screen menu, or with a mouse and keyboard shortcuts.

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4 of 5 Martin Gaston/ZDNet

Other areas, such as Stonehenge (pictured), highlight the contrast between 3D objects and flat low-resolution backgrounds.

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5 of 5 Martin Gaston/ZDNet

The 3D Earth view also can also overlay numbered roads and streets on the image, as shown in this image of London.

The overlay is similar to the other display modes on Google Maps. However, the Google Earth view does not provide features found in standard Google Maps, such as directions. It also does not include the flight simulator, tours and other features in the standalone Google Earth application.

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