Google Earth

Google Earth is out, a fun and easy way to browse the globe, zooming in and out on satellite imagery sharp enough to distinguish people on the ground. 3D representations of buildings are also available, and various overlays, like road names, subway stops, even names of commercial establishments. Pretty amazing. Take a look at how close I can get to my apartment:

To show how crisp and exact the detail is, compare these two shots of Michigan City, one from me on a plane as I flew over it, and the other from Google Maps. (Click on the thumbs to see the photos on Flickr.)

View from a plane View from Google Earth

The app is for Windows only at this point, and you’ll ideally need lots of RAM and a 3D-capable video card. Plus, the data comes from Google/Keyhole’s servers, so there’s usually a bit of a delay loading the high-resolution features.