Google Earth goes underwater

Aug 24, 2010

An Android update for the popular and cool educational app offers hundreds of underwater adventures. Also, Foursquare’s founder calls Facebook’s Places boring.


Google Earth, a signature app for both Android and the iPhone, is introducing a major upgrade. The upgrade is currently only for Android owners and its such a beauty, it may sway your decision if you were to pick today between buying an Android phone or an iPhone.

With Google Earth 1.1 for Android, users can dive into the ocean to see what our planet looks like from below.

The updated app “introduces the ‘Explore the Ocean’ layer, which features hundreds of photos and videos from more than 100 contributors who are excited to share their stories of sea,” according to Google’s description on its mobile blog. One of those partners is Mission Blue, an organization dedicated to preserving special areas around the ocean. The group’s content includes undersea videos that can be accessed on the new version of Google Earth.

The app is available for most phones running Android 2.1 or higher, while users who have been able to upgrade to Android 2.2 (not easy, apparently) will get additional features. With 2.2, “Google Earth now supports Flash in balloons, so if you have the Flash player installed on your mobile device, you can watch videos right in the balloon. We’ve also made the program …. even easier to tilt your view to see mountainous landscapes or underwater canyons. Rotating your view with a simple twist of your fingers is now available on more devices as well,” according to Google.

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Apps for school

The timing of the Google Earth update is ideal, as the new school year is getting underway across the country. The new Google Earth may be able to help you start weaning your kids off of silly games for fun educational fare. To generate additional ideas for kids, here are lists of educational apps Appolicious users have created. Here are three highlights:

  • User iHomeEducator offers an intriguing mix of animal information and math apps (some offer both!) for the iPad.

  • To help students create, sjunkins listed 7 apps “that will allow students to use their mobile device as an enhanced ‘creation station’ where they truly have the opportunity to express themselves.” The list includes apps to create comics, stories and even short films.

  • And if you have a preschooler, Alline offers 10 app ideas to develop thinking skills.

Facebook Places boring

Not that he is a vested interesting or anything, but the Mayor of Foursquare is underwhelmed by Facebook’s new Places tool after spending some time experimenting with the location tool.

“It’s a pretty boring service, with barely any incentives for users to keep coming back and telling their friends where they are,” Foursquare founder Dennis Crowley tells the London-based Telegraph. “The only interesting thing about Places is that it has a potential audience of over 500 million people around the world.”

The incentive that turned Foursquare into a household name — in social media obsessed households at least — was the check-in tool that rewards users for frequently visiting an establishment (I am the Mayor of Simpleton). Crowley wouldn’t disclose specifics about coming Foursquare upgrades, but he indicated more innovation was on its way.

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“In the future, I want Foursquare to be able to tell people where to go wherever they are in the world, based on their previous visiting habits, likes and dislikes and the time of day,” he said. “We want to be able to push venue suggestions to you. That’s what I am pushing towards as we develop Foursquare’s tools and how we use our data.”

Meanwhile, Foursquare is working with Facebook to improve places. Facebook released an API for other developers to work with the program. Soon, perhaps, it will be less dull.

Boring or not, Places does raise privacy issues. Here are some precautions to keep in mind if you use Places.

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Eric Benderoff

Eric Benderoff is the principal of, an editorial services firm, and a founding member of the Appolicious content strategy team. His personal technology column for the Chicago Tribune has appeared in newspapers and websites nationwide. He is a regular guest on Chicago's WGN Radio and is a frequent commentator about consumer technology on national TV news programs.

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